You’re a survivor.
You got the most common type of cancer in the United States — skin cancer — and you beat it. Or you’re about to beat it.
Caught early, abnormal skin cancer cells and tumors can be removed for a full recovery. But surgical treatment is not without its downsides. During skin cancer surgery, a surgeon must remove enough tissue to ensure all the cancer cells are gone, which can lead to lesions or deformities. These lesions are often located on the face and can make it impossible for patients to truly “move on” after treatment.
Fortunately, skin cancer reconstruction is a highly effective surgical procedure designed to 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 the lesions and deformities caused by skin cancer surgery. Reconstructive surgery can be performed anywhere it’s needed, but the most common area 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 is complete.
The consultation for reconstructive surgery can actually take place before cancer treatment, or after the initial treatment. Planning ahead is typically a good idea, and we recommend you schedule a consultation with mia Aesthetics Medical Director Dr. Sergio Alvarez as soon as you know your treatment plan. Dr. Alvarez will go over the repair procedure with you and assess your needs for surgery. You will have the invaluable opportunity to discuss your goals, your concerns, and your questions about skin cancer reconstruction in Miami. The doctor 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. While facial reconstruction can produce amazing results, perfection is not a realistic goal, so viewing Before & After photos, voicing honest questions, and developing realistic expectations will help you immeasurably.
Cancer reconstruction surgery is different from patient to 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 the surgeon uses to reconstruct the affected areas.
The most common techniques are tissue flap rearrangement and skin grafting, which “borrow” skin from another area and use 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. Sergio Alvarez & all the surgeons at mia Aesthetics create a tailored approach to meet each individual’s needs. In some cases, multiple surgeries may be the key to achieving the desired outcome.
Which anesthesia is chosen will depend on the extent of the surgery, and many reconstructive procedures can be performed under local anesthesia with sedation.
Because some reconstructive procedures are more invasive than others, recovery times vary. Most patients can expect to return to normal activities fairly quickly, with sutures and dressings removed about a week after surgery. You’ll get personalized instructions to help you make a smooth recovery and heal properly. Patients will need to practice good aftercare during the recovery process to prevent complications such as scarring or infection.
Choosing the Right Surgeon
Damage to the face after cancer treatment can seem insurmountable. It is not. A talented plastic surgeon can work wonders and restore a normal appearance, bolstering a cancer warrior’s confidence and peace of mind. Do your research, meet with a few qualified surgeons, and choose a talented doctor who inspires your confidence and trust.
Skin Cancer Repair FAQs
What is MOHS surgery?
MOHS surgery is a common technique used to treat many 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 & After photos to get an idea of what kind of results are realistically possible.
What surgical techniques will be used for my reconstruction?
Because the procedure is so customized, you can’t know which surgical techniques will be used until a plastic surgeon evaluates you. Surgical plans won’t 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, not cosmetic. However, check your policy carefully to accurately 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.