Facial Reconstruction after Cancer
Friday, September 15, 2017
When we hear the term “plastic surgery,” we often think of celebrities and their search for eternal youth. But plastic surgery offers hope and wholeness to those recovering from skin cancer.
There are three predominant types of skin cancer which is an abnormal growth of cells:
· Basal cell carcinoma – usually found on skin frequently exposed to the sun; may appear as a flat lesion that looks like a scar or a waxy bump; the most common type of skin cancer
· Squamous cell carcinoma – looks like a flat lesion with a crusted surface or a red nodule that feels firm to the touch
· Melanoma – first appears as a new skin growth or a sudden change in an existing mole; can occur anywhere on the body, including inside the mouth or under the nails; the rarest form of skin cancer and the most dangerous, but often curable if caught in its earliest stages
In the U.S., over one million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed every year, most frequently found on a highly visible place like the head, face, ears, neck, hands, and arms. This makes sense because these are the parts of the body that typically receive the most sun exposure.
The good news is that early detection means a near 99% survival rate. The survival rate drops steadily in proportion to how far the cancer has spread at the time of detection, so regular screenings are important.
While certain types of skin cancer can be treated with cryotherapy (freezing), lasers, electrodesiccation, and curettage (aka ED&C, which is alternate scraping and burning of the lesion), and even topically applied chemotherapy, others require surgical removal. Often, the best way to remove skin cancer while preserving as much normal tissue as possible in highly visible areas is with Mohs surgery. A Mohs surgeon is a dermatologist who has received at least one year of additional specialized training in the surgical removal of skin cancer lesions. Mohs surgery is the most effective way to remove basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer
Although your Mohs surgeon can sometimes close the wound left after removal, the cosmetic result may be unappealing to you. Many patients want a plastic surgeon to restore their appearance as close to normal as possible, especially if the cancer was on their face. Reconstructive surgery can happen as a part of, or at any point after, the initial excision surgery.
In most cases, reconstructive surgery after skin cancer removal is covered by your health insurance. Make sure you check with your surgeon’s billing office to determine whether your plan is accepted by the practice.
Skin cancer can leave a lasting impact on your appearance, but reconstructive surgery can help this. Please contact us to discuss your situation.