Removing Facial Skin Cancers: What You Should Know
While any cancer diagnosis is difficult, skin cancer can typically be treated completely with surgery alone as long as it is caught early and not allowed to spread. However, cancer removal surgery, like any surgery, can be scary; and facial skin cancer removal surgery has the added fear of the effect it will have on the face. Fortunately, knowledge and a skilled surgeon can alleviate some of that fear.
About Skin Cancer
The skin is made up of three different types of cells: squamous cells, basal cells, and melanocytes. Squamous cells are the thin cells that make up the top layer of the epidermis. Basal cells are round cells that lie underneath the squamous cells, in the middle layer of the epidermis. Finally, melanocytes make up the lower layer of the epidermis. These cells contain melanin, which gives the skin color. When exposed to the sun, melanocytes produce extra melanin, causing the skin to darken, which we see as a tan.
Each of these types of cells have corresponding types of skin cancer. The first two types are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, which are non-melanoma skin cancers, while melanocytes correspond with melanoma. The non-melanoma skin cancers are more common and also considerably less likely to spread to other parts of the body than melanoma, making them much less deadly and far easier to treat. The non-melanoma skin cancers are also more likely than melanoma to appear on the face.
Any type of skin cancer can be treated with removal surgery, but certain cases may require additional or alternative types of treatment because of spreading of the cancer or other complications. Your doctor can work with you to determine the best treatment for your individual case.
The Facial Skin Cancer Removal Process
The actual surgical process involved in facial skin cancer removal can vary a lot from patient to patient because cancer growth and health history vary from patient to patient. However, most skin cancer removal surgeries follow the same basic outline of steps.
First, the patient is given an anesthetic to alleviate discomfort during the procedure. This may be local, intravenous, or general anesthesia, depending on the surgical needs.
Next comes the actual removal. A small lesion can be removed through a simple excision, but skin cancer can often be much larger than just what appears on the skin and without clear borders. In these cases, a technique called Mohs surgery, or Mohs micrographic surgery (MMS), may be used. This technique removes the skin in layers, with testing for cancer cells conducted between each layer.
After removal comes reconstruction. This may not be necessary in all cases. Reconstruction typically uses either a skin graft or a local flap, in addition to the relocation of healthy adjacent tissue to minimize the effects of the surgery on the skin’s appearance. Suture lines are placed along natural lines and crevices on the face as much as possible. In particularly severe cases, additional reconstruction may be needed in the form of additional surgeries.
Choosing the Right Facial Skin Cancer Removal Surgeon
An unskilled surgeon can leave scarring or disfigurement. For this reason, patients often choose a plastic surgeon experienced with skin cancer removal because of their ability to minimize scarring and preserve the appearance over a regular surgical dermatologist or surgical oncologist. In fact, many surgical dermatologists and surgical oncologists prefer not to operate on the face and will recommend that patients see a plastic surgeon because of the potential for scarring.
Fortunately, one of the world’s leading plastic surgeons is in the Los Angeles and Beverly Hills area and available for consultation. Dr. William J. Binder specializes in various facial reconstructive surgeries, including the removal of skin cancers. If you have been diagnosed with skin cancer, be it a carcinoma or melanoma, be sure to book a consultation with Dr. Binder today.