Question:Six months ago I had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in my neck. The surgeon wasn't able to get all of it, so I know I'm at increased risk for it to come back. How will I know if this happens?
Answer:Cancer recurrence is more likely when the surgeon is unable to remove the entire tumor. This happens for a variety of reasons. For example, the tumor may be wrapped around vital blood vessels or nerves in the cervical (neck) spine.
You are probably scheduled for regular follow-up visits with your surgeon or primary care physician. It's important to keep these appointments even if you feel fine. MRIs taken at regular intervals (every six months) will help identify any changes that might suggest tumor regrowth.
Early symptoms of cancer recurrence can be very subtle. Many people tend to ignore vague changes in health or mild symptoms. Anyone with a past history of cancer should not take a wait-and-see approach.
Let your doctor know if you start to have head, neck, or arm pain. Other symptoms to watch for include weakness (arms or legs), numbness and tingling, and loss of bladder or bowel control. Night pain or pain at rest that doesn't go away with pain relievers is a red flag and should be reported right away.Mehmet Zileli, MD, et al. Primary Tumors of the Cervical Spine: A Retrospective Review of 35 Surgically Managed Cases. In The Spine Journal. March 2007. Vol. 7. No. 2. Pp. 165-173.
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