Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Fortunately, most skin cancers can be treated successfully if caught early, and it is possible to remove abnormal cells and tumors surgically for a full recovery from skin cancer. However, surgical treatment of skin cancer is not without its downsides. During the surgery, the surgeon must remove enough tissue to ensure all of the cancerous cells are removed, which can result in lesions or deformities. These lesions are often located on the face, and can make it impossible for patients to move on following the cancer treatment. Fortunately, skin cancer reconstruction is a highly effective surgical procedure that can restore a normal appearance to the facial skin following cancer treatment, such as MOHS surgery.
While MOHS surgery in particular tries to preserve the surrounding tissues as much as possible, it is impossible to prevent all damage. Facial lesions can be quite large, depending on the extent of the skin cancer, and the amount of skin and cartilage removed. Reconstruction involves taking tissue from less conspicuous areas and grafting skin and cartilage to cover and reconstruct the lesions and deformities caused by the surgery.
Reconstructive surgery can be performed wherever it’s needed, but the most common area for the procedure is the face, including the, ears, and/or lips. In many cases, scarring can be minimized so much that the reconstructed area looks almost completely normal once healing from the surgery is complete.
The consultation for reconstructive surgery can take place before cancer treatment, or after the initial treatment. Typically, planning ahead is a good idea, and it’s advisable to schedule your consultation with Dr. Alvarez as soon as you know what your plans are for treatment.
Dr. Alvarez will go over the procedure with you and assess your needs for surgery. You will have the opportunity to discuss your goals and any concerns you have about the surgery. You’ll also be able to ask any questions you may have about skin cancer reconstruction in Miami. Dr. Alvarez will make personalized treatment recommendations and start planning the surgery (or surgeries) you’ll need for natural-looking reconstruction.
As with any surgery, patients will need to be healthy enough to undergo anesthesia and recover from surgery. Potential candidates are people who have or are facing surgical cancer treatment that will likely result in loss of skin and soft tissue and/or cause distortion of facial features. Many patients work with a MOHS specialist and a plastic surgeon for the best outcome, though some MOHS surgeons perform simple reconstructions and vice versa. Candidates for facial reconstruction will need to be non-smokers or willing to quit before and after surgery, and have realistic expectations for the outcome of the procedure. While facial reconstruction can produce amazing results, perfection is not a realistic goal.
Cancer reconstruction surgery varies quite a bit, depending on the individual patient. Variations in the type of cancer, the depth of the tissue removed, and the location of the tumors/cancerous cells will affect the techniques used to reconstruct the affected areas.
The most common techniques used are tissue flap rearrangement and skin grafting, which “borrow” skin from another area and uses it to cover and repair the damaged area. Other techniques may also be necessary, depending on the complexity of the reconstruction. Procedures can range from a scar revision for small defects, to extensive reconstructions that cover large areas or reconstruct entire facial features, such as the nose, lip, or ear, and require reconstruction of the soft tissues. Each patient’s needs are unique, and Dr. Alvarez tailors his approach meet each of those needs. In some cases, multiple surgeries may be required to achieve the desired results.
While the type of anesthesia will depend on the extent of the surgery required, many reconstructive procedures can be performed under local anesthesia with sedation.
Because some reconstructive procedures are more invasive than others, recovery varies somewhat. However, most patients can expect to be back to normal activities fairly quickly, with sutures and dressings removed at about a week following surgery. Instructions will be provided for each patient to help facilitate a smooth recovery and proper healing. Patients will need to practice good aftercare during the recovery process to help prevent problems such as scarring or infection.
Choosing the Right Surgeon
Damage to the facial aesthetics following cancer treatment can seem insurmountable, but a talented plastic surgeon can work wonders and restore a normal appearance, bolstering patient confidence. It is important to choose a talented surgeon who you feel you can trust. It is best to meet with a few qualified candidates before you make any decisions about who will perform your reconstruction.
Skin Cancer Repair FAQs
What is MOHS surgery?
MOHS surgery is a common technique used to treat many different skin cancers. It is a precise, micrographic technique that involves removing thin layers of cancerous skin cells at a time and examining them until no cancer cells remain. This allows surgeons to definitively remove all the compromised tissue without damaging surrounding tissue.
Will the reconstruction look natural?
Plastic surgeons can produce remarkably natural-looking results for most reconstructive patients. However, the amount of improvement will depend on the nature of the tissue removed and the individual patient. It’s helpful to peruse before-and-after photos to get an idea of what kind of results are realistic.
What surgical techniques will be used for my reconstruction?
Because the procedure is so custom, it’s not possible to know what exact surgical techniques will be used until you are evaluated by a plastic surgeon. Surgical plans will not be finalized until your cancer treatment is complete and your surgeon can see how much tissue was resected.
Is skin cancer reconstruction covered under insurance?
While every insurance plan is different, most plans do cover reconstruction following MOHS, as it is considered medically necessary, and not cosmetic. However, it is important to check your policy carefully so you understand what will and will not be covered.
Will there be any scarring from the reconstruction?
All surgery produces some scarring, but reconstructive surgery is designed to produce unobtrusive scarring that will fade well. Compared to the scarring left by cancer treatment, any scarring from reconstruction should be nearly invisible.
Schedule a consultation with Dr. Alvarez in Miami by filling out the contact form here or call (305) 600-4146.