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Whenever a patient undergoes skin cancer removal surgery, many worries can go through their minds.
The first is about the success of the operation and whether all of the cancer will be removed.
But after the cancer is taken care of, patients’ worries usually move onto the lasting results and impacts on the body, including future hair growth if the skin cancer was on the head.
Many people worry that they will be forever bald after Mohs surgery, unable to grow any hair whatsoever. Unfortunately, whether you will have permanent hair loss issues after skin cancer removal on your head is not an easy Yes or No answer.
However, here is some information to help you better understand skin cancer removal and its lasting effects on your hair.
What Is the Most Common Skin Cancer Removal Method?
Luckily, we’ve come a long way in successfully removing skin cancer from patients’ bodies.
Mohs surgery is the most common and successful procedure for removing skin cancer while doing as little harm to your body and aesthetics as possible.
With Mohs surgery, the cancer area is removed, one cancer tissue layer at a time. Each tissue layer is examined in a lab until no cancer cells remain. This process is repeated, layer after layer, until you are free from any cancer.
What Causes Hair Loss After Skin Cancer Removal?
Whether a patient loses the ability to regrow hair after skin cancer removal comes down to whether or not the hair follicles are affected during Mohs surgery.
If the cancer is shallow, meaning that few layers of tissue and skin were removed during surgery, then the hair follicles can survive and allow hair to regrow without any kind of surgical intervention.
However, if the follicles were removed or directly affected during Mohs surgery (because the cancer was deeper and more layers of tissue and skin were removed), then the hair will not be able to grow back naturally, leading to baldness in that area.
It’s important to note that the nature of Mohs surgery is to preserve as much of the skin (including the hair follicles) as possible, but some cancers are deeper than others.
What Are the Methods for Repairing the Scalp After Skin Cancer Removal?
During Mohs surgery, your surgeon will remove as much of the cancerous tissue and skin needed to make sure that you are cancer-free. While it is best to let the skin of the scalp heal itself naturally, this is not always possible.
Sometimes, skin reconstruction is necessary, especially if the surgical site was deep or large. If this is the case, there are two methods for repairing the scalp. The extent of the cancerous area (size of the cancer) plays a part in which method of repair is best for you.
A skin flap is used if the follicles were removed, but the skin cancer is contained to a smaller area on the head. A skin flap uses the tissue surrounding the Mohs surgery site to cover the surgical area and heal.
This often allows for a smoother healing surface with similar coloration and texture and less chance of scar contracture (shrinking). This method preserves as many hair follicles as possible, though the pattern of the hair will change.
While a skin flap offers many positives, especially with allowing for hair to regrow, if the cancer excision site is large, a skin graft may be required.
Where a skin flap has continued blood flow (since the skin is not actually removed from the body and reattached), a skin graft does not have continuous blood supply because it is skin that has been taken from another part of your body, moved, and attached to the Mohs surgery site.
A skin graft allows for larger coverage and helps protect the surgical area; however, due to the nature of skin grafts, they usually do not allow hair to regrow in the reconstructed area without further treatment.
Want to Learn More?
If you have any questions about skin cancer removal or how Mohs surgery will affect your hair growth, please feel free to contact Dr. Hung at his Pasadena office at 626-432-5032 or his Newport Beach office at 949-574-8292.