Head and Neck Cancer Surgery

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Head and neck cancer covers the cancer of mouth (oral cavity), salivary glands, paranasal sinuses, pharynx (nasopharynx-upper part of the pharynx, oropharynx-middle part of the pharynx and hypo pharynx-lower part of the pharynx), larynx (the voice box) and the lymph nodes in upper part of the neck.

Cancer is an uncontrolled multiplication of cells. Cancer tissues are malignant tissues. These cancers spread to other body parts and destroy or invade the living cells. Hence, early detection and early treatment helps in a major way.

When cancer is in its last stage or doctor feels the need for removal of the part, then head and neck cancer surgery is recommended or carried out.

Do not always fear about surgery. Surgeries carried out on a very small cancers are generally less painful and do not require the need to stay overnight in the hospital. That's why it is said that early idetification of head and neck cancer plays a vital role. But, if the cancer is very large and there is a fear of it spreading towards the other body parts, then surgery carried out requires you to stay overnight in the hospital. The head and neck cancer surgery carried on small cancers use local anesthesia whereas surgery carried on large cancers requires the use of general anesthesia.

Skin Flap

The surgery is carried out on the part which is most affected. Sometimes, doctor may remove a part of throat, mouth or tongue depending upon the situation. This also involves the removal of facial skin. The removed facial skin is replaced by the skin taken from chest or forearm. This modus operandi is called as skin flap.

Bone grafts

If the tumor occurs in the bone, then the bone has to be removed. The removed bone is replaced usually replaced by the bone taken from the leg. This procedure is called bone grafts.


Obturator is the artificial replacement of the upper jaw. Prosthesis is a method of an artificial replacement of destroyed body part. The most common prosthesis is Obturator. Prosthesis does not feel like they are your own tissues. However, they do appear to be very natural. A technical team works on making prosthesis. It is made up of soft plastic and is a very expensive procedure. But, if you don't want to compromise on your looks then prosthesis is a good option.

When the surgery is over, you may be transferred to intensive care unit (ICU) where the nurses and doctors take close check on your recovery. You may also be advised to stay in the hospital for a few weeks.

If you are uncomfortable to eat because of the operation of mouth or throat, then drips are attached to your veins in your arms or neck. This will allow the essential nutrients, vitamins and glucose to enter your bloodstream directly. Drips are tubes interleaved in veins to allow the passage of necessary nutrients.

Feeding tube also called as nasogastric (NG) tube is passed to your stomach from nose or throat. This tube is attached only when eating is difficult for more days. A special high protein or high calorific food is put through this tube at regular intervals of time. This helps in faster recovery and replaces lost nutrients and blood. Since, during the operation, blood is lost in high amounts, doctors recommend to consume foods rich in iron like green leafy vegetables, so as to avoid the condition of anemia. The nasogastric tube is kept until you are able to eat by yourself.

Tracheotomy tube

Tracheotomy tube is an opening made by the surgeon in the lower part of the neck i.e. windpipe to enable proper breathing. The surrounding tissues of mouth or throat get bruised or swollen because of the head and neck cancer surgery making it difficult to breath. Hence, tracheotomy tube is created. Head and neck cancer may cause a problem in speech, since air would not be able to pass through the voice box or larynx.

Catheter tube

Catheter tube is a tube attached to your bladder to collect urine, since the head and neck cancer surgery makes it complicated to walk. The tube is removed after a couple of days to avoid stinking smell. Once, you are able to walk, there is no need of the catheter tube.

Pain is inevitable. Effective painkillers are given through injections or as a liquid that can be injected into the body through drips or NG tube. Painkillers can also be given in tablets once you start eating. Small exercises like leg movement and breathing exercises are recommended so as to ensure healthy recovery. Healthy and light diet is also significant in recovery.

Doctors would give you appointments to enquire about your recovery or problems after you are discharged to go home. So tell all your physical problems to your doctor to avoid further complexity.

Take care!

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