Reconstructive plastic surgery plays a large role in cancer treatment. Malignancies and the surgical procedures used to treat them often leave cancer patients with scars and other deformities. Reconstructive plastic surgeons can restore the function and appearance of body parts affected by cancer, helping patients reclaim their confidence and achieve a better quality of life.
What is reconstructive plastic surgery?
Plastic surgery has two main subspecialties: reconstructive surgery and cosmetic surgery. Many people use these terms interchangeably, but while there is certainly quite a bit of overlap between the two, they are not the same. Reconstructive surgery is typically performed to restore function and normal appearance after some type of trauma, while cosmetic surgery is generally performed to enhance someone’s appearance. As such, reconstructive surgery is usually considered to be medically necessary, while cosmetic surgery is almost always elective.
"Reconstruction often requires multiple procedures performed in stages, and various reconstructive techniques can affect the sequence, timing and duration of cancer surgery, radiation, chemo or immunotherapy, which is why reconstructive surgeons need to be involved in the treatment planning from the beginning."- Rogerio Neves, MD, Reconstructive Oncology Program Leader
Cancers treated with reconstructive plastic surgery
Some of the cancers that are most commonly treated with reconstructive plastic surgery include:
- Breast cancer – Many women undergo mastectomies to either treat or reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. This procedure involves surgically removing the entire breast. Reconstructive plastic surgeons can rebuild a removed breast using an implant, tissue from another section of the woman’s body (autologous tissue) or both. This reconstructive procedure can be performed at the same time as the mastectomy (immediate reconstruction) or at a later date, after the original incisions have healed and all other cancer therapies have been completed (delayed reconstruction).
- Skin cancer – Skin cancer often requires surgery to remove the malignancy, and depending on the size and location of the growth, this can leave the patient with noticeable disfigurement. In many cases, plastic surgeons will perform the initial removal procedure to minimize any resulting scarring. In other instances, a plastic surgeon will perform a reconstructive procedure at a later time to restore a patient’s appearance as much as possible.
- Head and neck cancer – Patients with head and neck cancer often develop issues related to breathing, eating and communicating, and a reconstructive plastic surgeon can help restore those functions. This might involve reconstructing the facial bones, skin grafting or another approach.
- Cancers treated with radiation therapy – Numerous malignancies are treated using radiation therapy. While this form of treatment certainly offers numerous benefits, it can also damage the skin on the area of the body receiving radiation, resulting in a rash, discoloration, swelling and other issues. Reconstructive plastic surgeons can help restore the appearance of this skin.
Other types of reconstructive surgeries offered include:
- Tendon and bone grafting
- Scar revisions, performed to improve the condition or appearance of a scar on the body
- Genitalia reconstruction
- Abdominal and thoracic wall reconstruction
- Complex microsurgery reconstruction
Reconstructive plastic surgery at Moffitt
At Moffitt Cancer Center, the Reconstructive Oncology Program takes a comprehensive approach to cancer treatment, and we’re pleased to perform reconstructive plastic surgery for patients whose cancer experience left them with some type of physical defect. Our team, led by Program Leader Rogerio Neves, MD, includes numerous surgeons who specialize in plastic surgery. Those clinicians will work with the other providers on your treatment team to develop a highly individualized plan that’s tailored to your specific needs.
To learn more about the reconstructive and cosmetic plastic surgeries offered at Moffitt Cancer Center, call us at 1-888-663-3488 or fill out a new patient registration form online. At Moffitt, personalized cancer treatment starts on day one, and new patients will be connected to a cancer expert within just one day, a turnaround time faster than that offered by any other cancer hospital in the country.