Skin cancer such as melanoma is a very serious disease that needs to be treated quickly through skin cancer reconstruction surgery. More than 3 million people in the United States are treated for skin cancer every year, and as many as one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer while Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common. Additionally, over the last three decades, more people worldwide have had skin cancer than all other type of cancers combined.
Also, skin cancer treatment costs annually $8.1 billion in the United States. Out of all Americans who live to age 65 years old or older, at least 40 percent will have either basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma.
When a person is diagnosed with skin cancer, they will likely need to have the cancerous tissue removed. If a lot of skin was removed, afterward a patient usually needs to undergo skin cancer reconstruction.
Are you a skin cancer survivor who may need skin cancer reconstruction? What exactly does this mean? If you haven’t ever heard of skin cancer reconstruction, keep reading to learn what this procedure is all about.
What is Skin Cancer Reconstruction?
Skin cancer reconstruction is completed by a plastic surgeon. When you’re diagnosed with skin cancer by a dermatologist or oncologist, you will likely be told to undergo a surgery to remove the cancerous mole or other skin damage to prevent the spread of cancer.
If you have had a significant amount of skin and tissue removed around the cancer or you have a very aggressive type of cancer, your doctor will likely recommend you to undergo skin cancer surgery, which will be completed by a plastic surgeon.
This will replace your skin and tissue that was lost in the cancer removal process as well as reduce the amount of scarring you may undergo. Mohs surgery, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, is one of the more effective treatments for the majority of skin cancer types.
Skin cancer reconstruction is all about preserving tissue on your face, neck, or limbs. Restoring your typical appearance is the goal of a plastic surgeon who treats a skin cancer patient. The way this procedure works is by taking extra, unneeded tissue from nearby areas and bringing it to the areas lacking skin or tissue. The size of your skin issue will dictate how to proceed and how to close or perform an incision on your body. Skin grafts and cartilage grafts may also be required to complete this type of surgery.
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Where and How to Recover from Skin Cancer Reconstruction?
You may also be wondering how the recovery process from skin cancer reconstruction takes place. You should be able to get back to your normal functions the day of the procedure or the next day. You will be able to recover from the surgery at your own home after leaving the hospital.
You will likely have a dressing placed on your damaged skin after undergoing skin cancer reconstruction surgery. You will receive wound care instructions from your doctor to make sure that your skin heals quickly in a clean environment.
Additionally, seven days after reconstruction procedure, you will need to go back to the clinic to see your doctor and have your sutures removed. There are some side effects from skin cancer reconstruction surgery that you may want to be prepared for. Some of these potential side effects include pain, scarring, numbness, swelling or bruising, infection, bleeding, fatigue, lymphedema, and nerve damage. Talk to your doctor and healthcare team to learn how you can better manage any of the side effects you may experience.
For example, your incision sites may be sore, red, or drain fluid. It’s vital for you to follow wound care instructions including cleaning and applying topical ointments. Ask your doctor when you can take up more light activities. Try to limit any movement that would damage your sutures. If you’re concerned about noticeable scarring, talk to your doctor about using fat transfer or dermal fillers to restore some of the evenness in your skin.
Who is the Ideal Candidate for Skin Cancer Reconstruction?
The person most in need of skin cancer reconstruction is the one with the most severe type of skin cancer and the largest wounds after cancer removal. For example, sometimes patients need to undergo skin graft surgery. These are the patients with the biggest wounds.
Essentially, large wounds need a skin flap of sorts to repair the skin defect after skin cancer removal. Often patients who have had cancer removed from their nose, cheeks, neck, forehead, eyes, or ears will need to undergo skin cancer reconstruction surgery.
Most Mohs procedures or reconstruction surgeries can be completed in one single operation. However, if it is more severe, sometimes multiple surgeries may need to be scheduled to ensure the patient has the best cosmetic outcome.
Talk to your surgeon and oncology team to learn whether or not you’re eligible for skin cancer reconstruction from a plastic surgeon. You’ll learn everything you need to know from your healthcare team. Be sure to ask your doctor any questions you may have.
Dr. Anurag Agarwal and Dr. Richard Maloney of the Aesthetic Surgery Center are double-board certified facial plastic surgeons serving the Naples, Fort Myers, and Marco Island areas. Aesthetic Surgery Center offers various surgical and non-surgical procedures for the face, breast, body and skin.