In 30-50% of patients with cancer of the thyroid gland, the cancer spreads to the surrounding lymph nodes in the neck. Neck dissection is a surgical procedure performed to remove these lymph nodes.
With most types of cancer, a lower survival rate is expected when cancer migrates to the lymphatic system. Fortunately, this is not the case with papillary thyroid cancer; this type of cancer remains highly treatable even when it spreads to the lymph nodes in the neck. However, the presence of cancer in these lymph nodes does increase the chance that the cancer will come back, requiring further treatment. For this reason, when cancer cells spread to lymph nodes in the neck, it is usually recommended that the lymph nodes be surgically removed.
There are two main types of neck dissections: central (inside the bounds of the left and right common carotid arteries) and lateral (outside these boundaries).
This information is provided by the Department of Surgery at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. It is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition.