Let’s talk about the Scar

Modified Radical Neck Dissection due to Thyroid Cancer photo progression of the scar

When I was diagnosed with Papillary Thyroid Cancer in March 2015 and was told that it had spread into my lymph nodes as well, one of the first things I did was Google “Modified Radical Neck Dissection Scar” because it seemed that my surgeon seemed pretty concerned about the scar he was going to give me. Much more concerned than I was! I could only find a few gruesome images online, most of them were of the Thyroid removal-only scar or very outdated. So I wanted to add my images and story for those who are more recently diagnosed. For those that want to read what to expect during/after surgery, please see my post on Thyroid Cancer Surgery Recovery.

Below is the progression of my scar and the “after surgery process” from day of surgery until a year and a half later. (forgive me in advance for the selfies, how else do you take a good picture of that part of your neck!)

Day of surgery. Modified radical neck dissection. The surgeons removed my whole thyroid and 30 lymph nodes.

Day of surgery. Modified radical neck dissection. The surgeons removed my whole thyroid and 30 lymph nodes.


One week after surgery.

One week after surgery

One of the most surprising parts of having this surgery was the amount of numbness in my neck after. The numb felt like when you get Novocaine at the dentist, you can tell something is touching your neck, but you can’t actually feel it. Directly after surgery it actually burned like I had set my neck on fire, from my collar bone all the way up until right under my chin. Most of the time I kept ice on it just to stop the burning sensation. I was told it had to do with nerve damage/regeneration that was occurring. I personally found this ice-pack that a friend gave me as part of my care package to be the best of the best.

Ten days after surgery- tape removed.

Ten days after surgery. Tape             removed

At my surgical follow up appointment the surgical tape was removed – beware, that is shocking but no blood or disgusting stuff underneath. I look pissed in this picture because honestly, I wasn’t expecting it and was still unimpressed with the doctor’s visit.

13 days post-op, feeling much better at this point.

13 days post-op, feeling   much better at this point


One month after surgery.

One month after surgery


Two months after surgery.

Two months after surgery


Five months after surgery.

Five months after surgery

In November I started using a product called BRIOTECH on my neck. This product immediately helped speed up the reduction of my numbness. Within about 3 months I had lost all of the numbness in my neck and my scar had greatly improved.

One year modified neck dissection post-operation.

One year modified neck       dissection post-operation


14 months later

14 months later

While I am not a huge fan of posting all these photos online for all to see, it was important to me for other’s to see that the scar isn’t as scary as they make it out to be. Even if I can put one other person at ease, help sooth a few of the fears that come along with the diagnosis, it is worth it to me.

Update 3/13/2017: Now that I am almost two years post-op I can honestly confirm that people don’t ever notice my scar unless I point it out. Even with my hair up and my neck exposed. Before surgery I remember preparing my response to the inevitable question I assumed I would get, “what happened to your neck?!?!”. My friends and I had come up with a bunch of fun replies like, “Bar fight. You should see the other chick…” or “Bear attack. Never go hiking alone…” but I’ve only ever been asked once (and it was by a kid so I couldn’t even be sarcastic about it! Some could assume that people are too polite to ask, but when I bring it up in conversation people always swear they didn’t even see it. So put your fears to rest, unless people know what they are looking for (ahem.. other cancer survivors have pointed it out) then 99% of people won’t ever notice.

Are you or a friend headed into surgery for Thyroid Cancer soon? Read my blog on the actual surgery here to help understand what to expect.

Disclaimer: This post may contain a link to an affiliate.

30 thoughts on “Let’s talk about the Scar”

  1. Scars don’t bother me but cancer does! Having said that, I feel the bigger my scar, the better chance I have that they got it all! I used a product called Scar Strips and they helped it to flatten. My forehead is still numb though. You are looking great. I liked seeing the progression. Scars are just part of our story:)

  2. I just had this same surgery in September and the description you gave about the numbness and it being a burning feeling… I have never read something more accurate!! My sense of feeling hasn’t completely come back yet but it slowly is!

    1. I think the numbness was the biggest surprise out of everything for me! No one warned me about that. Not even the surgeon mentioned it as a side-effect. It was way more painful that the surgery itself. I am now almost two years post surgery and I finally have full sensation in my neck again. It took a long time but became much less noticeable as time went on. The lack of what to expect is what drove me to start blogging about my experience. There was so little real accounts of what was going to happen out there and the few that were were old and scary! Wishing for a quick recovery for you and that your nerve regeneration happens fast! Thanks for taking the time to read this 🙂

      1. nocotdomestitased March 24, 2012 Haha I just commented on your blog, and now I’m seeing your comment! I really enjoyed reading your post. It was very well-written. Thank you for the idea about the natural wash … I would love to find something like that!

    2. Thank you for sharing.. i may undergo this next week depending on what the doctor finds out but it is re aaauring to know it’s not as super scary as how i imagine it to be. Your achieved you goal to help someone be at ease.

  3. Thank you, this has really helped me. I am worried about the scar, really worried but you have eased he worry , thank you x

    1. I am so happy to hear that sharing my experience has helped quiet some of your worry. When I was diagnosed and went to the internet to find information, almost all of it made my worries worse not better! Everyone’s cancer story is different but I think the more we share with each other, the more we can see it isn’t all terrifying. Almost two years post-surgery and even surgeons don’t notice my scar until I point it out – it is that faint. Best of luck to you and speedy healing 🙂

    1. Hi Pricillya,
      No, the only thing I used on my scar was the Briotech product that I linked above in the post. It really is a miracle worker!
      Thank you for taking the time to comment!

  4. Angie – I heading for surgery in a few days, thank for posting pictures of your healing adventure. You are correct, there isn’t much on line to calm the post op scar concerns. Your blog helps to do that so thank you from the bottom of my heart. I too will follow your example and document the adventure…fear of the unknown is most often worse than the reality. You’re a beautiful young woman your scar is a badge of honor as a survivor!

    Best of luck.

  5. I just found this post on pinterest. I had a thyroidectomy and neck dissection in April . I work as an aide in a high school and just went back a week ago. It will be 85 degrees today and I decided to go to school without a scarf. It’s toonly dang hot. I wore I high necked tank, but I’m ready for all the looks and questions which are inevitable. When did you start using a product to heal scar? Do you suggest anything natural? I’ve only used the bacitracin they gave me at hospital. I also have the pain and numbness exactly as you described….like novacaine at the dentist. Such a weird feeling! I had damage to my rotary cuff as a result of nerve damage and am in physical therapy for that. I have not been scheduled for a scan yet, but I’m assuming that is next. I’m a mom of 3 little kids and I’m trying to be optimistic every day. I’m tired as heck, but it could be worse. I’d appreciate any advice you have. 🙂

  6. Thank you so so much for this website. It really helps a lot.
    I was diagnosed with Papillary thyroid cancer that spread to my lymph nodes as well, and I am so so scared. I have three small children, and I have a month long wait until the consultation. And then maybe one more month until the surgery.

    This site really helped me know what to expect, and it means a lot.
    Bless you, and thank you.

  7. Wow, such a brave woman.
    Thank you so much for your story.
    I was diagnosed with Papilary thyroid cancer a month ago.

    Had two separate operations to remove my thyroid within two weeks.
    It has now spread to my lymph nodes and I need to have another surgery to remove the ltmph nodes.

    My question is. How was your experience with the Radioactive iodine treatment?

    All the best.


  8. Hiii thanks so much for sharing, you look amazing btw.. im going to have my surgery in 2 days and reading your posts have calmed me down a bit.. can you share the experience on RAI treatment? I have young children too.. how long were u away from them? I also heard horrible stories how pol gain so much weigh after due to hormones, but u look sooo good and such an inspiration for me ..

  9. Wow I couldn’t be happier to find your blog! I was diagnosed with PTC a year and a half ago already had the thyroid out and now going in for the neck dissection of just the left side. It looks like they only did one side for you as well? Do you know did they take any fat out of your neck? Do u notice one side looking more concaved then the other? My surgeon said she would be taking fat and my neck wouldnt look symmetrical but should be slight…I’m having a hard time finding pics to get an idea. Pretty nervous about the whole thing I do not scar well. Your scar looks amazing def going to check out the cream you referenced. Thanks for blogging your experience.

  10. Thank you for these pictures and descriptions of numbness . I am just 5 days post op and that is the worst thing for me . I can’t feel anything yet it’s cold and itchy . My sense of taste and swallowing is definitely compromised and voice is hoarse with no intonation. It’s quite an ordeal . But thank you for blogging this it really is helping me xxxx

  11. Thank you so much for this, I am 4 days out of neck surgery and am having a really hard time of it. It’s nice to see other people have made it through and there is reason to keep going. Did you lose movement to the lower side of your mouth? I cant move my bottom lip at all, and I’m trying to figure out how likely it is to be permanent, or over what timeline it might return. Thanks!

    1. Hi Monica, So sorry that I am just now seeing this. I had a baby the week you posted! I am glad to hear that my story was helpful. I did not lose any movement in my mouth. The only sensation I had on my face was when my lips tingled due to my parathyroid going into shock and the lack of calcium that creates in your body. Once I told the nurse about that she gave me tums to get me the calcium my body needed and it stopped.
      I hope the nerve damage that you experienced in your lip does not turn out to be permanent. Over time, all of my nerve damage was resolved. Many years later now, I forget it is even there unless I touch it.
      I hope all turned out well!

  12. Thank you for this post and the pictures. I will be having neck dissection in one week ( a few weeks after having tongue surgery – the tissue removed was 6mm, which meant that I had to have lymth nodes removed). I am not all that worried about the scar, as I just want to make sure all cancer is gone. You mentioned a numb neck – what about your lip and smile. I have been told that I will probably have a crooked smile after, and maybe a frozen shoulder. I just wondered if you have this as well.

    Thank you for publishing your experience. It really does help alleviate some of my fears.

    1. Hi Gayle,
      I’m glad you found my story helpful. I did not have any numbness or effects to my face or smile. I do remember them talking about the possibility of problems with my shoulder, but I did not experience any myself.
      Best of luck to you with your surgery and recover!

  13. Angie,
    Who was your surgeon please. It seems he was very attentive and effective in your. Its hard to find a great surgeon thyroid removal.
    Thank you,

  14. Angie,
    Who was your surgeon please. It seems he was very attentive and effective in your thyroid surgery. It’s hard to find a great surgeon for thyroid removal.
    Thank you,

  15. Thank you for such a detailed post. I wish I had found this before my surgery. I had the same exact number of lymph nodes removed, and J had the same diagnosis as you. The only difference is that my incision was on the right side. It has been 9 months and 5 days already :). For the first few months after surgery I was taking pictures almost every day. Now when I look back at how it was, it makes me so happy with the way it’s looking.

    My numbness is almost all gone. Sometimes it itches a little, but overall I feel great. One question, did you apply scar lotion for how long after surgery?

    Thank you again for all the details.

  16. Thank you so much for these posts! I had a radical neck dissection and thyroidectomy 10 days ago, and while the symptoms have been less than I expected (and actually less that you described — only my right ear lobe is numb, most of my neck feels pretty normal, and I never had the calcium dip tingling at all — he was very gentle with the parathyroids!), nevertheless I was wondering about how Frankensteiny I would look for how long! What my surgeon said is that the #1 thing to prevent a bad scar is staying out of the sun and using a 50 SPF sunblock at all times. I am using a big scarf for now because I just don’t want to goop it up yet.

    I will also look at your blog because the next big hurdle will be the radioactive iodine treatment. In some ways, I am more scared of that than the surgery — because I really trusted my surgeon after a lot of research, whereas I feel like I have no way of really doing much about the radioactive iodine treatment at all …

    1. I am so glad you found the posts helpful. It’s been 6 years since my surgery and the comments I get on these posts still make my heart happy that I was able to share my experience and help others looking for information.
      I definitely used a scarf a lot in the beginning to help protect my scar also! I agree about the sunscreen too. I am probably one of my few friends who always uses sunscreen on my neck (daily!) even if I am not putting sunscreen anywhere else.
      Good luck in your healing process!

  17. Hello Debra. I also had thyroidectomy and neck dissection on the right side last june 4. and same as you im looking like Frankenstein, the tape of my stitches is still on and feeling numb from side of shoulder upto right side of my head.

    I’m so thankful for this post coz Im pretty scared about the cancer and im happy to read everyone’s experiences, it gives me hope and more ideas.

    God bless you and may He restore our health and heal our wound fast.

  18. Hi, thank you so much for this post! I was diagnosed in Nov 2021 with metastatic PTC and am getting ready for this surgery and RAI. I’m 25 and in my Master’s degree for opera vocal performance…can I ask, how did your voice feel after everything was completed? I am terrified of losing my career, and it’s been challenging to meet other people my age who have been having this procedure.

    Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Aubrey! I definitely remember being terrified that the surgery was going to change my voice too. Thankfully, for me and anyone else I’ve known that has had this surgery, my voice didn’t change at all.
      Wishing you the best through treatment!

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