Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. During Skin Cancer Awareness Month it is important to discuss all aspects of skin cancer, including skin cancer reconstruction. Here, in recognition of Skin Cancer Awareness Month, Dr. Jonathan Grant discusses skin cancer reconstruction and explains when it is necessary.
What Is Mohs Surgery?
Mohs surgery is a procedure to treat skin cancer. During the procedure, thin layers of skin are cut away one by one to check for signs of cancer. The cutting continues until there are no longer any signs of cancer. This method helps to ensure that all cancer is removed. It also helps to preserve as many healthy cells as possible. While Mohs surgery helps to minimize the amount of tissue that is removed, the amount of cancer determines how much skin is removed.
Depending on the extent of the procedure, skin cancer reconstruction may be necessary.
What Is Skin Cancer Reconstruction?
Skin cancer reconstruction is performed after skin cancer is removed to minimize scarring. Skin cancer reconstruction varies from patient to patient depending on their individual needs.
When Is Skin Cancer Reconstruction Necessary?
After Mohs surgery most patients can benefit from some form of skin cancer reconstruction. Those most in need of skin cancer reconstruction tend to be patients who have a significant scar, an unsightly wound or some other form of disfigurement following Mohs surgery.
Skin cancer reconstruction can be appropriate for patients who have had cancer removed from almost anywhere on their body. It is most commonly needed for cancer that is removed from the face, neck, scalp or other visible areas.
What Should You Expect During Skin Cancer Reconstruction?
Your surgeon should advise you regarding what to expect during skin cancer reconstruction prior to the procedure. What you should expect will vary depending on the extent of the procedure.
While every procedure is customized to the individual needs of the patient, there are four main techniques that tend to be used in skin cancer reconstruction. These techniques depend on how much skin was removed during Mohs surgery and include the following:
- Primary closure is the most conservative method and can be used for minor procedures where the skin can close the wound. This method may require stitches.
- Local flap closure relies on nearby healthy tissue to create a flap. The flap is then used to cover the gap from the Mohs surgery.
- When primary closure and local flap closure are not effective then the surgeon may use skin grafting. Skin grafting removes healthy skin from a separate part of the body and then places it over the exposed area to help the skin heal.
- Structural grafting is a common method used when Mohs surgery is performed on the nose or ear. This procedure focuses on repairing cartilage as well as the skin.