"People have often come to me with skin cancer and wonder why am I seeing a plastic surgeon," said Dr. Matthew Steele, plastic surgeon at Tri State Specialists. "It's primarily because we're trying to restore a normal form and function. And that's primarily what plastic surgeon is all about."
A normal form and function.
The goal many have after suffering from any type of cancer.
But when dealing with skin cancer, especially on the face, patients often want to minimize any scaring or imperfections.
That's where Dr. Steele comes in.
"I've had many patients where they've lost the whole lower part of their nose that we call the a-la, so they have an open hole looking right into their nose," said Steele. "And that can be a challenging reconstruction that most dermatologist aren't going to have the experience to handle or have the operating room to make the patient comfortable."
But it's not a quick and easy process.
"'Some of those surgeries are 3 to four stages of reconstruction where we take tissue from inside the nose, cartilage from the ear or somewhere else," said Steele. "And then actually take the forehead and take it down to create a flap from the forehead."
In the next stages the surgeon thins the tissue to look like the rest of the skin.
Next, they will cut the tissue loose from the forehead once it grows blood vessels.
The entire process could take between two to three months for completion.
Dr. Steele says patients with the early stages of skin cancer don't necessarily need reconstruction surgery.
"They could be treated with something like liquid nitrogen where they freeze it off or burn it off in the office or topical treatments, like topical chemotherapy," said Dr. Matthew Steele, Tri State Specialists Plastic Surgeon.
No matter the treatment, the goal for the doctors to get patients back to normal form and function.
Dr. Steele says some of the flap methods to reconstruct whether it be the nose, lips or eye lid are more than three thousand years old.