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The lymphatic system is part of our body’s immune system. It contains a network of lymph vessels and lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are small bean-shaped organs that act as filters for foreign substances including infections and cancer cells. Lymph nodes are connected via a network of vessels called lymphatics (or lymph vessels). These lymph vessels carry a fluid called lymph, which carries white blood cells which help to fight off infections.
Many kinds of cancers can spread via lymph vessels and involve the lymph nodes. For cancers in the head and neck region, these cancers can often spread to the lymph nodes in the neck.
A neck dissection is an operation where the surgeon will remove lymph nodes and the surrounding tissue from the neck.
Your doctor may discuss doing a neck dissection operation with you if there is proven cancer in the lymph nodes or he feels that your cancer has a high risk of spreading to the lymph nodes.
There are different types of neck dissections. The exact type of neck dissection that will need to be done will usually depend on where the cancer is located and whether or not it has spread to the lymph nodes in your neck or has also involved the other structures in your neck.
Your doctor will discuss with you the type of neck dissection that needs to be done.
The neck dissection is often only one part of the surgery, and very often surgery to treat the primary site of the tumour will also be necessary.