Surgical Therapy

Surgical therapy is a mainstay of head and neck cancer treatment. The aim of an operation is to remove the tumor completely and with a safe margin. In addition, depending on the type of tumor, the fatty and connective tissue of the neck with the lymph nodes present in it must be removed. If it is a very large cancer that causes a large defect, tissue from parts of the body that are distant from the head but is the same must be transplanted in order to fill the defect. These are, for example, skin and connective tissue from the forearm or skin and bones from the lower leg.

Who will perform the operation?

The surgery is performed by experienced surgeons from the Head and Neck Tumor Center (University Hospitals for Ear, Nose and Throat Diseases, Head and Neck Surgery and Cranial and Maxillofacial Surgery). If necessary, specialists from associated clinics are called in.

How does an operation work?

Before the operation, the procedure will be explained in detail by a member of the surgical team. In the case of more complicated procedures involving reconstructive measures, we also offer patients and their relatives an outpatient pre-examination day. Various team members consisting of doctors, nursing, psychology, social counseling and speech therapy show you the details of such an operation. We will then discuss your case at a preoperative multidisciplinary conference together with craniomaxillofacial surgery and plastic and reconstructive surgery. In addition, an examination and a discussion will be carried out by the anesthetist.

On the day of the operation, patients are prepared for the operation by nursing staff and driven to the operating room, where the anesthesia team welcomes them and initiates anesthesia. The patients spend the first few hours after the operation in the recovery room before they are moved back to the room after sleeping off the anesthesia. In the first few days after the operation, pain management and nutrition are resumed.

Can I speak after surgery?

Head and neck surgery can affect important functions such as speech, swallowing and breathing. Many operations only minimally affect these functions. However, speaking is also possible after major operations. Today, even if the entire larynx is removed, a usable voice can be achieved using modern techniques and voice training.

What happens after the operation?

After the operation, all patients are presented again at the interdisciplinary tumor conference. There it is decided whether additional surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy should be carried out or whether close checks are suggested (so-called tumor follow-up care).