The Aesthetic Side of Treating CancerBy Dr. Michael Rosenberg, Chief of Plastic Surgery, Northern Westchester Hospital
With a diagnosis of cancer, all most people can think is, “Please cure it quick.” Thankfully, cancer treatment has come a long way; through advanced surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy techniques, more and more patients are surviving this dreaded disease. But there’s a lot more to surviving cancer than treatment. We’re starting to see treatment as just the first step.
Welcome to the world of aesthetic oncology: An approach that combines the principles of cancer surgery and aesthetic surgery. We’ve moved from focusing just on the disease to a more patient-centered approach. What does that mean? Usually after a cancer diagnosis, a patient will typically discuss next steps with a surgical oncologist and a medical oncologist. Nowadays, a reconstructive or dermatologic surgeon will be part of this pre-treatment meeting, along with other specialists that will play a role in recovery, such as a radiologist and the nursing team.
Having reconstructive surgeons consulting from the beginning offers big advantages to patients: The surgeon can help advise the patient and the cancer specialists on the best incisions to minimize scarring. For instance, breast cancer patients may be eligible for skin-sparing or even nipple-sparing surgeries. With these techniques, the cancer surgeon can remove a tumor using subtle aesthetic incisions that preserve as much of the patient’s tissue as possible. Later, when it’s time for reconstruction, the surgery will be easier for both the reconstructive surgeon and the patient, and the results will look more natural.
The same is true for skin cancers: Consultation up front with a dermatologic surgeon will help guide the surgery, preserve more of the patient’s skin, minimize potential scars, and insure that the reconstruction goes smoothly with the best possible results. In the old days, the first step was to get the cancer out. Little thought was given to scarring or how the patient would look and feel afterwards. But now with breast, prostate, and skin cancers, we really focus on the quality of a patient’s self-image and life post-surgery.
If this approach sounds new to you, it’s no surprise, Northern Westchester Hospital is at the forefront when it comes to aesthetic oncology. As the only hospital-based cosmetic surgery center in the region, the hospital has really taken the lead in going beyond just treating the cancer. We treat the person.