Mercy Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeon Dr. Craig Vander Kolk Discusses Reconstruction Techniques Following Skin Cancer Removal

May 11, 2015

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Reconstructive surgery may help restore the appearance of skin after cancer is removed.

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Each year millions of Americans are diagnosed and treated for skin cancer, but sometimes after the cancer is removed surgically, the area may not look normal.

Helen Vogel said she has never been a sun worshiper, but she has had more basal cell cancer spots removed than she can count, all of which were simple procedures except for the last one.

"It was inside of my ear and there's not a lot of skin to pull together to sew it up, so this time, I had to have plastic surgery to do a skin graft," Vogel said.

According to Mercy’s Dr. Craig Vander Kolk, Director of Cosmetic Medicine and Surgery, sometimes when skin cancer is removed surgically, it can leave a scar or unwanted changes to the area, but reconstruction can restore it to a better look and function.

"We can actually blend it in, make it look natural, usually hide the scar in either a wrinkle line or a fold or something along the way, so that ultimately I prefer that people don't worry about what it's going to look like, get it treated early, get it treated right and we can usually make it look really good," Dr. Vander Kolk said.

"Dr. Vander Kolk took the skin from behind my ear, where my ear meets my head back, and then he put it inside of my ear," Vogel said.

Because it is reconstruction due to cancer surgery, it is covered by insurance.

"People think of whether it's cosmetic or reconstruction. Cosmetic is actually making normal tissues more normal or looking better. This is really taking tissues that have been changed by a cancer and actually getting them back to normal, so that's a reconstructive procedure," Dr. Vander Kolk said.

"It was painful, but you know, that was Feb. 13, and I have to say, it has healed up pretty well and it kind of now seems like a blip on the radar screen," Vogel said.

To view Dr. Vander Kolk’s interview regarding construction after skin cancer surgery, click here.


About Mercy

Founded in 1874 in Downtown Baltimore by the Sisters of Mercy, Mercy Medical Center is a 183-licensed bed, acute care, university-affiliated teaching hospital. Mercy has been recognized as a high-performing Maryland hospital (U.S. News & World Report); has achieved an overall 5-Star quality, safety, and patient experience rating (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services); is A-rated for Hospital Safety (Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade); and is certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center as a Magnet™ hospital. Mercy Health Services is a not-for-profit health system and the parent company of Mercy Medical Center and Mercy Personal Physicians.

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