Facing Cancer Threats Head-On Is Speciality Of Local Plastics Surgery Group

A common threat of living in mountainous regions is skin cancer. Reconstructing facial changes following removal of skin cancers can be challenging, but it’s a service that Utah Facial Plastics physicians specialize in and greatly enjoy helping patients get back to feeling confident and whole again.

“With so many sunny days each year, as well as so many opportunities for outdoor enjoyment, it seems that almost everyone has either personal or indirect experience with some form of skin cancer,” Dr. Douglas Henstrom says.

Indeed, data indicate 30 to 49 people out of every 100,000 in Utah have experienced melanoma cancer. Utah had the nation’s greatest incidence of melanoma from 2010 to 2014, the last year for which data is available. The state’s melanoma rates more than doubled in the past 17 years, according to the Utah Department of Health and the Utah Cancer Registry.

Utah Facial Plastics physicians also fix many removals for basal cell and squamous cell cancers.

Repairs of facial cancer alterations that have been created using the Mohs technique often use healthy adjacent skin flaps or skin grafts. The technique was developed by surgeon Dr. Frederic Mohs to include intermittent pathology analyses during the surgery to determine where a border of non-cancer cells exist around the incision. Large areas occasionally need to be repaired using free tissue transfer from other skin, muscle and/or bone from a different part of the body to fill the defect.

Dr. Scott Thompson stresses the importance of proper daily skin care, especially for those with a history of skin cancer. It’s important to apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 or higher, and that contains zinc and titanium oxide daily, especially to areas of concern. Skin may need reapplication on days during multiple hours of sun exposure.

“With any incision, patients need to be vigilant about daily sunscreen use for at least one year for minimum scarring,” Henstrom says.

Through in-office and online education, the Utah Facial Plastics team try to inform community residents about the many risks of skin cancer.

Jenny Yergensen, practice administrator for the Utah Facial Plastics staff, says they’ve had many people thank them for showing before and after photos, and for documenting the process required for repair.

“Once people see the large excisions that need to be made on the face, it sometimes scares them into protecting their skin,” she says. “We also educate our patients regarding the right sunscreens they need to be using, as well as an antioxidant.”

With a frightening cancer diagnosis, especially on one’s face, the situation becomes emotionally stressful. The Utah Facial Plastics team assist patients with mental tips and are committed to the entire process of recovery.

“It’s really hard for people, especially younger patients,” Yergensen says. “They are worried they will never look like themselves, and often need large grafts taken down from the forehead that require a few procedures and get a lot of strange looks from people.

“I usually tell them they will look like themselves again, but it’s a process, and to trust in the process. It’s going to take time and patience, although that’s hard. Our doctors really are the best, so we let patients know they are in good hands.”

Draper regional residents should get any suspicious skin development checked out because the larger the area of cancer, the larger the excision is going to be.

“More is going to be required to fix it. And, if it’s malignant, the more treatment required to ensure remission,” Henstrom says.

Regarding sharing expertise and giving back endeavors, Thompson participates in medical missions to Ecuador and Guatemala, where people have minimal access to medical care and the number of children born with congenital defects is higher than in other countries.