There’s a rising concern about skin cancer in the US. This most common form of cancer has affected a growing number of patients every year. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the people undergoing a non-melanoma skin cancer treatment in the US alone have reached 3.3 million yearly. And unfortunately, most of these patients develop skin tumors on the face and neck areas.
After winning a battle with skin cancer including the successful removal of the skin tumor, reconstructive surgery is often suggested by surgeons. This is because the results of the skin cancer treatment can have significant aesthetic and functional implications to the patient.
Cancer reconstruction can be done with the use of various reconstructive approaches. Often, a patient undergoes a Mohs surgery first to remove the skin cancer.
While undergoing skin cancer removal, the surgeon can also do tissue reconstruction. The surgeon often uses healthy adjacent skin grafts or flaps for this procedure. Larger facial skin cancers are sometimes repaired using tissue transfers from a different part of the body to fill the affected areas.
Typically, facial skin cancer reconstruction includes the following surgical procedures:
Flap Technique: This technique can either be a local flap or a free flap. Local flaps are then categorized into advancement, transposition, interpolation, and rotation. These local flaps involve freeing and turning adjacent tissues to cover the area exposed by Mohs surgery. In this technique, the tissues remain attached to the body of the patient. And the blood vessels pass through the donor site to flow into the flaps.
Cartilage Grafting: Cartilage grafts are usually taken from the ears and the ribs for a cartilage repair.
Skin Grafting: Healthy skin is removed from a less visible area of the body. Then, it’s stitched and transferred to cover the area where the skin cancer was removed.
Tissue Expansion: This technique requires the use of a silicone balloon extender. It’s usually placed under the skin near the area of the Mohs surgery. Then, a saline solution is filled in it. This causes the skin to extend and expand over the original surgical site.
Tissue expansion and skin grafting aren’t used as much with facial skin cancer reconstruction as they are for other cosmetic surgery procedures.
Cancer reconstruction surgery is often used for patients who have facial skin cancers removed. The entire procedure is done with coordinated care between the Mohs and the reconstructive surgeons. Surgery for larger skin cancers is often assisted with different surgeons and oncologists specialized in the procedure. Typically, Mohs surgery is done first, and the reconstructive surgery is performed the following day.
The cost for facial cancer reconstruction varies widely and depends on various factors. These factors include the geographic location, surgeon’s expertise, method used, extent and complexity of the surgery.
However, reconstructive surgeries can be covered by most health insurance providers. It’s recommended that you inquire with your insurance provider to know the coverage of your plan.
A facial skin cancer reconstruction surgery is a very challenging procedure and must be done by a qualified surgeon. An unqualified practitioner may lead to surgical complications and unsatisfying results. Keep these qualifications in mind when choosing the right surgeon for you.
After you’ve chosen the perfect surgeon for your cancer reconstruction surgery, an initial consultation will be conducted. You’ll discuss with your doctor about your medical history, cosmetic goals, risks, complications, and other concerns that may affect the surgery. Don’t hesitate to talk with your doctor. Remember that it’s your own convenience that matters most.
After you have fully understood everything that’s discussed with you, you’re required to sign consent forms to confirm that you have agreed to undergo a cancer reconstruction surgery.
Your surgeon will give you pre-operative instructions about what you need to do before the surgery. Typically, reconstructive surgery is done the following day after the removal of the skin cancer.
Here’s a list of things that you have to do before the surgery:
Also, make sure to have someone to drive you to the facility and back home after the operation. In some cases, you may be required for a hospital stay depending on your doctor’s discretion
Cancer reconstruction involves a challenging and complex procedure considering that the areas for repair are visible and have a limited tissue supply. The entire surgery depends on the extent and complexity of the Mohs surgery conducted.
Arrangement of tissues and transfer of the grafts are made to attain an optimal balance and symmetry of the facial features. The surgeon will help choose the best reconstructive method for your needs. Everything will be discussed during the initial consultation with the surgeon.
After the surgery, the surgical site will be secured with gauze.
You should avoid doing any strenuous activity for about six weeks or until your doctor allows you. Your surgeon will prescribe antibiotics and medications for pain. Make sure that you follow all the doctor’s instructions to avoid complications.
Recovery time from facial skin cancer reconstruction varies depending on the extent of the surgery. However, the doctor will closely monitor the progress of the surgery. A schedule for a follow-up will be given to you to monitor the progress. Depending on the doctor’s evaluation, medications may be prescribed to you to manage any discomfort. You may undergo a therapy or require another surgery.