Surgery is performed to remove the tumor. Surgery to remove a small tumor in the mouth many not cause any lasting problems. Surgery to remove a larger tumor may involve the removal of the cancer and some of the healthy tissue and structures around it to provide a margin of safety. Such surgery may affect your ability to talk, chew, or swallow. If the surgeon suspects that the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the neck, these nodes will also be removed. This procedure is called a neck dissection. Often, the surgeon will need to reconstruct specific areas, and will work with other specialists to address cosmetic and functional issues.
Questions You May Want to Ask Before Surgery
- What kind of surgery do you recommend?
- Will I need lymph nodes removed? Why?
- How will I feel after surgery? How long will I be in the hospital? What are the risks of the surgery?
- Will I have trouble speaking, eating or swallowing?
- Where will the scars be? What will they look like?
- Will I look different?
- Will I need reconstructive or plastic surgery? When can that be done?
- Will I lose any teeth? Can they be replaced?
- Will I need to see a specialist to help me with my speech?
- When will I be able to resume my normal activities?
What You Can Expect After Surgery
After surgery, your face and neck may be swollen and you may look different. Swelling in the face and neck area usually goes away within a few weeks. However, if lymph nodes are removed (neck dissection), swelling may last for a longer period of time as this surgery can slow the flow of lymph, which may collect in the tissues. Your shoulders and neck may also feel weak and stiff after a neck dissection. Physical therapy, including appropriate exercises and treatments. may help with these problems.