Many people may not know this, but plastic surgery is an indispensable ally in the fight against skin cancer. And when we consider that non-melanoma skin cancer represents about 30% of all malignant tumors registered in the world, and the incidence of this disease has increased considerably over the years. With the performance of skin cancer surgery and other appropriate therapeutic methods, however, the mortality rate related to this type of disease is considerably low.
Skin cancer surgery is the main form of diagnosis and treatment of the disease, as well as skin lesions considered suspicious or precancerous. There are several surgical techniques that are very efficient to remove a skin tumor and reconstruct the affected area, and the choice of the best method depends directly on the size and characteristics of the disease.
Plastic surgery for skin cancer is a delicate procedure, since it is responsible for tumor removal and reconstruction of the affected site.
What is the relationship between skin cancer and plastic surgery?
The relationship is very simple to understand: the procedure of tumor removal leaves scars. Depending on the case, if we are talking about a skin cancer of the neck or face, there may even be a disfigurement. Therefore, plastic surgery is done to correct this problem, so that the patient does not have any kind of problem after cancer treatment — not even aesthetic.
Of course, tumor removal and aesthetic procedure can be done at different opportunities and by different physicians. However, plastic surgeons also have the necessary instruction to remove the tumor.
So, if it’s possible to do it all at once, there’s no reason to go through the whole process involved in surgery more than once, don’t you think? And that’s exactly why cosmetic surgeons like me perform plastic surgery for skin cancer.
Types of skin cancer
This condition is developed when skin cells multiply uncontrolled and, according to the affected cell, can be classified between two types of skin cancer: melanoma and carcinoma (also called non-melanoma). Melanomas are more aggressive and rare and originate from melanin-producing cells — the protein that determines skin color.
Non-melanoma tumors are more frequent and have a high chance of cure, provided they are detected and treated early. These carcinomas can be classified into two types, they are:
- Basal cell carcinoma: affects basal cells, has slow evolution and is the most common of non-melanomas, characterized by the presence of a skin lesion. It usually arises in regions exposed to the sun without adequate sun protection;
- Squamous cell carcinoma: affects squamous skin cells, is more prevalent in men and may be associated with chronic wounds and exposure to certain chemical or radioactive agents.
How is plastic surgery done for skin cancer?
Skin cancer surgery is the main therapeutic method for most cases of melanoma and skin tumors that have well-delimited margins. It is a procedure considered simple and that, if the lesions are small, can be done in an outpatient setting and only with local anesthesia.
In general, this is always the first treatment option for skin cancers, since it offers high cure rates and can be used in cases of recurrent tumors. This skin cancer surgery uses a scalpel to remove the lesion and an additional amount of healthy skin as a safety margin. The pattern is that this border is 1 centimeter in cases of carcinoma, and 2 centimeters for melanomas.
Details such as the anesthesia used, the duration of the procedure and the preparation required to perform the surgery are defined according to the complexity of each case. Small and simpler manifestations, for example, can dispense with preoperative examinations and last a time considered short. Larger procedures, however, may require preparations that include:
- Blood tests and cardiac evaluation;
- Suspend the use of specific medications;
- Discontinue use of dietary supplements that may interfere with coagulation;
- Choose comfortable clothes that are easy to wear, so there is no discomfort during and after the procedure.
Risks of skin cancer surgery and post-care
Skin cancer surgery usually has a quiet and uncomplicated healing, although a follow-up of the surgeon is required to make sure that the post-surgery is within the expected and that the wound is healing properly. The few related complications concern healing problems and the possibility of infection in the wounds.
Recovery after the procedure varies according to the patient’s health status, the amount of skin that was removed, and the site of surgery. The aesthetic results are good, in general, although it leaves a small scar. Even though it is a very efficient treatment, it is always necessary to monitor the possible appearance of new carcinogenic lesions.
Skin cancer and prevention
Although skin cancer surgery is a fairly efficient treatment, investing in prevention is still the best way to fight malignant tumors of any kind. In the case of skin disease, avoiding excessive exposure to the sun is the main tip to prevent the development of the problem — especially in people with fair skin. To this end, the main protection measures are:
- Use sunscreens daily, and not only in outdoor leisure time;
- Wear hats, t-shirts and sunglasses to promote a physical barrier against sunlight;
- When attending beaches and swimming pools, prefer to stay under umbrellas, canvases or tents;
- Create the habit of observing one’s own skin, doing a self-examination in search of suspicious spots or spots;
- Avoid and be very careful when tanning;
- Maintain a good hydration of the skin;
- Consult a dermatologist at least once a year, taking your questions about the best preventive methods and the best dermocosmetics for your skin type.
Early detection is essential for successful tumor treatment, whether done through skin cancer surgery or any other therapeutic method. Therefore, in addition to preventive measures, it is recommended to adopt strategies that allow the diagnosis of the disease still in the initial phase.
People at high risk of developing skin tumors — such as sensitive skin, with a family or personal history, and who regularly expose themselves to risk factors — should therefore be evaluated periodically by a professional.
Self-knowledge is also fundamental, and it is important that individuals know their own skin and know how to identify suspicious changes. The appearance of dark, irregular lesions that grow and/or have a size greater than 6 millimeters is a change that requires follow-up from a plastic surgeon, or dermatologist.