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Free Tissue Transfer Effective in Treating Massive Skin Cancers

Most skin cancers arising on the face are spotted quickly by patients or their friends or family, and treatment is sought before the cancers get out of hand.// In these cases, doctors can easily treat the cancers and repair the damage using flaps of skin located next to the cancerous area.

In some cases, however, facial skin cancer goes untreated for a long period of time and therefore grows to a massive size. In others, patients have recurring skin cancers on the face that cause significant disfigurement. Repairing the damage from these cancers has been difficult. The success doctors have had with taking tissue from one part of the body and using it to repair other damaged parts, however, is promising for these patients.

A new study shows the disfiguration caused by massive skin cancers on the face can be effectively repaired by using tissue transferred from other parts of the body.

Researchers from Oregon Health & Science University and elsewhere used a “free tissue transfer” technique to treat 17 patients with squamous cell carcinomas and 26 patients with basal cell carcinomas. All had cancers involving the face, ear, neck, or scalp. Flaps for reconstruction came from the abdomen, arm, or other areas of the body.

Results were generally positive. At a follow-up, 25 of the patients had no evidence of disease. Twelve had a recurrence in the same area and three had a nearby recurrence. The cancer was found to have spread to other areas of the body in three patients.

Thus researchers conclude that free tissue transfer yields acceptable survival with functional and cosmetic outcomes.


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