WHAT IS POST CANCER RECONSTRUCTION?
Surgery that results from a post-cancer treatment is known as head and neck cancer reconstruction (post-cancer reconstruction procedure). Not only the head and neck areas but also the remaining soft tissue areas like breast are given importance for placing implants, or self-tissue of the patient can be used to replace the damaged sites to decrease the rejection rate by the patient’s own body.
WHY IS THIS POST-CANCER RECONSTRUCTION IMPORTANT?
Post-cancer reconstruction procedure is done based on the will and wish of patients. Reconstructive procedures aid in improving the person’s appearance, and to boost their self-confidence.
CAUSES FOR CANCERS OF THE HEAD AND NECK
Malignant tumours of the head and neck which may occur due to solar radiation due to ultraviolet rays in sensitive people the white population or any other risk factors such as smoking.
IS IT JUST SMOKING AND UV THAT CAUSE CANCER?
There are many other factors responsible for causing cancers, including alcohol and working in occupations. These could include handlers of certain compounds like asbestos and affect the face, scalp, ears, nose, mouth, tongue, throat, and glands of the face and neck. Not only asbestos but also industrial exposure to wood, formaldehyde or nickel dust increase cancer that affects the voice box called larynx cancer.
Poor oral hygiene also causes cancers of the mouth and oral cavity. Eating salted foods like pickles in childhood can also cause cancer. Salivary glands that produce saliva get affected by radiation to the head and neck. Defects in the structure, and sometimes deficits in the function of head and neck organs may be affected. Few viruses would also cause cancers like the papillomavirus or Epstein barr virus called EBV. There is a vaccination for papillomavirus like a preventive measure before adolescent age.
IS IT JUST THE APPEARANCE?
It’s not just the appearance that makes you have surgery. It also depends on the problems that you will have to face like difficulty in breathing, swallowing, chewing food etc. You may not be able to close your eyes completely because of cancer that affected your eyelids causing damage to the fatty tissue and doctor would recommend using pads during sleep just to protect the eyes from any further damage such as dry eyes.
Swallowing might be affected in nasopharyngeal cancers affecting both nasal areas along with the pharynx which is a passage. This is caused due to abusing substances like gutkha paan zarda and other tobacco-based materials. In such conditions, a post-cancer reconstruction is performed on the mucosal area to restore the affected/damaged area of the face.
HOW IS THE POST-CANCER RECONSTRUCTION PROTOCOL TAKEN?
Smaller cancers can just be removed, and the edges are brought together and sewed so that the face doesn’t appear dysmorphic. But if the cancers affect a large area and have already caused some amount of damage to the facial tissues, then they will have to be replaced. This replacement of facial tissues is done with a reconstructive surgery. An appropriate tissue like muscles, fat, bone and skin flaps are used to restore the functional capability of that particular part of the face. Microsurgeries are also a part of post-cancer reconstruction procedures, which are much needed to provide sufficient blood supply to the treated area.
WHEN CAN THIS POST-CANCER RECONSTRUCTION BE DONE?
Post-cancer reconstruction surgery is performed during cancer removal treatments. If the cancer part is large or is complicated, a reconstructive surgery may be delayed until the pathologist examines a tumour to make sure it is completely removed. But in some skin cancers, a dermatologist may remove a tumour and refer the patient to a plastic surgeon for a post-cancer reconstruction.
Complex tumours that occur in the oral and nasal cavities, a two-team approach is often utilised, with one team responsible for removing the tumour, and the other team takes up the reconstruction of that particular area. This usually shortens the length of the operation. This reduces the operating time since the team harvests the tissue from a different part of the body, while the oncologic team removes the tumour. Secondary reconstruction can be done on patients with longstanding deformities where the patient had surgery many years before, or on those with residual deformity after their initial post-cancer reconstruction procedure.
Most post-cancer reconstruction procedures usually consist of surgical removal of the affected area. It may sometimes be combined with radiation therapy.
Post-cancer reconstruction aims to restore both the appearance and function of the affected area.