Planning for Head and Neck Reconstruction after Cancer Treatment


Cancers of the head and neck are all too common. If you have received a cancer diagnosis, it is of course a frightening and difficult time, and you face a number of challenging decisions ahead. For some people, their appearance after surgery matters more than others, but everyone who will have surgical treatment of a head or neck cancer can benefit from involving a reconstructive plastic surgeon early on in the treatment process.

Reconstruction following Cancer Surgery

Excision or removal is a common treatment approach for many cancers of the face, ears, scalp and neck. A reconstructive surgeon can work with your cancer doctor to stage the removal of the tumor and rebuilding of the affected area. Very often, facial tumor removal will involve surgical removal of the soft tissue, bone, or both. Bone grafting and repair is often possible, and soft tissue repair can be achieved through flap surgery.

The Value of Involving a Reconstructive Surgeon Early

The primary goal of any cancer surgery is to entirely remove the tumor and restore the patient’s health. But without proper planning, head and neck cancer patients can be left with unsightly defects and skin blemishes that could have been improved through a reconstructive surgery plan. A reconstructive surgeon with experience working alongside cancer doctors knows how to coordinate care so that the surgical technique performed when removing the cancer puts the patient in the best possible position to have the resulting defect repaired in a way that looks good.

Pre-operative planning for reconstruction can be particularly beneficial for patients with facial tumors, since it is very easy to feel self-conscious about scars, depressions and other defects on the face itself following surgery. Facial tumor reconstruction may require rebuilding bone, using facial implants, or performing procedures such as rhinoplasty or jaw repair.

By working with your cancer surgeon ahead of time, an experienced facial reconstruction surgeon in most cases will be able to achieve a more satisfying outcome than if reconstruction is begun only after the patient has fully healed from the initial tumor removal.

Talk with your cancer doctor or contact us for more information on facial plastic surgery following head or neck tumor treatment.