Q. I was recently diagnosed with a malignant melanoma on my shoulder. My husband found it and I unfortunately just watched it for a few months before going to the dermatologist. She biopsied it and ultimately removed it. I was lucky because it was called a superficial melanoma and the only treatment recommended was close follow up for the next five years. I was advised to use sun screen regularly, but I am wondering if there is anything else that I can do and how do I protect my children from this terrible skin cancer?
A. Yes, you are very lucky. Malignant melanoma is now almost epidemic in the sun belt of the United States and I have witnessed over my 30-year career a dramatic rise in the diagnosis of this often aggressive and potentially fatal skin cancer. Part of the problem has been the rise in the use of tanning beds in the last 25 years and part of the problem is the failure of our population to be serious about sun screen when exposed to the sun for longer than about 15-30 minutes. Melanoma usually presents as a dark mole, typically about the diameter or larger of a pencil eraser, it can be flat or raised, irregular borders and can have black, brown or even some red color within the mole. If you are someone who is out in the sun for extended periods of time (more than 15-30 minutes) on a regular basis, it is advisable that you inspect your own skin every 6 months for any suspicious growths or moles. Since it is impossible to inspect your backside accurately, have a significant other look for anything suspicious, or have your dermatologist or primary care physician do the examination.
As for your situation, I am afraid your days in the sun without sunscreen protection and a coverup is probably over. That does not mean that you cannot get into the pool or ocean, but not for long periods of time. When not in the water, reapply sunscreen and put your coverup back on. Melanoma is serious business and you have demonstrated a susceptibility to the disease. Why chance another melanoma?
As for protecting your children, sunscreen and protective clothing is still the only proven protection from sunburn (which can lead to melanoma). Sunscreen is recommended for any child over the age of 6 months. For children younger than six months, protective clothing, hat and sunglasses are recommended. Sunglasses are also recommended for children and adults of all ages when out in the sun for long periods of time, say at the beach, the pool, or hiking. UV radiation is bad for the eyes and melanoma can occur on the retina in the back of the eye, although it is rare. Teach your children the importance of sunscreen, so that as they get older the application of this vital skin protection is ingrained in their habits. Good luck and remember that sunburns are very bad for adults and children, and excessive tanning either in a tanning bed or naturally is also something to avoid. Protect your skin like you protect any other organ in your body.
Q. I am a 46-year-old healthy woman who has inherited from my father a neck that has no definition and seems to be full of fat. On a picture of my profile it is hard to tell where my face ends and my neck begins. I have had this neck for about 15 years, but it has gotten worse since I had children and gained some weight. Is there anything that can be done to restore some definition to my neck?
A. Developing skin laxity in the neck and slowly accumulating some fat in the neck is not unusual as we age. When these changes occur, there is a loss of the tight angularity of the neck that is characteristic of the youthful neck. What you are describing is more of a hereditary condition where there is too much fullness of the neck at an earlier age. This exaggerated amount of excess skin and fat blurs the transition from the lower face to the upper neck. Essentially, the jawline is not clearly visible as a landmark separating the face from the neck. In the youthful neck, the undersurface of the chin should be tight and flat and there is a relatively sharp angle at the junction of the chin to the front of the neck. In someone who has too much fat and excess skin, there is an obtuse angle on profile, so it looks like there is a straight line from the front of the chin to the bottom of the neck. If, when you pinch the neck skin it feels thick or full, you likely have excess fat that is obscuring the angularity. So, what to do?
There are two options. The first option is to perform liposuction under the chin and the sides of the neck without tightening the skin. In this option, you are depending on the elasticity of the neck skin to tighten itself after the fat has been removed. This skin tightening is more likely to be successful in younger patients, say less than 40 years old. Forty is not a hard cutoff age to perform liposuction alone, it all depends on the quality of the skin of the neck. There is a chance that the neck skin will not tighten to your satisfaction and there can be some residual skin laxity in the neck after liposuction. The second option is to perform the liposuction and perform a simultaneous neck lift. This procedure is best for women (or men) over 40 who may lack the necessary elastic skin. The determining factor for which procedure is best for you is based on your age and the quality of your skin, and can be best determined by a board certified plastic surgeon. One thing to keep in mind after this procedure, either liposuction alone or with a neck lift, is that you must wear an elastic compression garment around your chin and neck for three weeks after the procedure in order to firmly hold the skin against the muscles of the neck to minimize residual laxity.
Q. About a year ago, I had an upper eyelid lift by a plastic surgeon outside of Greensboro. Everything seemed to have gone well after surgery except that I am still not able to completely close my eyelids together. There is a gap between each upper and lower eyelid when they are supposedly closed. I really cannot see the gap myself, but my husband says it is very noticeable when I am asleep. In addition, my eyes are always dry, and I am constantly having to use drops to moisten them. My plastic surgeon says that it will eventually get better and that there is nothing that needs to be done about the issue. Is there anything that I can do to help this problem?
A. The condition that you are describing is called lagophthalmos, and is a known risk of performing an upper eyelid blepharoplasty. This condition is a complication related to over resection of the upper eyelid skin. This over resection makes the upper eyelid too tight, resulting in the inability to completely close the eyes. The most common indication for an upper eyelid lift is because there is excess eyelid skin, which makes the upper eyelids look heavy and tired. (Read More)
Q. I am contemplating a breast augmentation in the next year or so. I am researching implant options and I remember reading in Kernersville Magazine a year or so ago about a new implant called the Ideal Implant. Can you tell me if you have experience with this implant and if you think it is a good alternative to the silicone gel implant?
A. Yes, I do have experience with this implant and I do think it is an excellent implant that can be an alternative to the silicone gel implant or the standard saline implant. The Ideal Implant was FDA approved several years ago and became commercially available just over 2 years ago. (Read More)
Q. I had a breast augmentation about 10 years ago. I am older now and having large breasts is not that important to me. I am a long distance runner and the implants just seem to get in the way when I run. I would like to have them removed but I have read online that removing without putting another implant back in will cause distortion of the breasts. Is it true and is it possible to take my implants out?
A. Yes your implants can be removed and in most instances distortion of the breasts does not occur after removal. If you have saline implants, then removal is typically performed in the office under local anesthesia with oral anesthesia (Valium), with only minimal downtime. You can expect to return to work the next day but I ask patients not to jog for at least one to tow weeks after explantation. (Read More)
Q. I am in my mid-twenties and I was born with a cleft lip. My lip was repaired when I was a baby and it looks fine to me. However my nose does not look normal and I was wondering if there is anything that can be done to improve its appearance? I have never had any surgery on my nose as far as I know, unless something was done when I was a baby.
A. Of course, there is something that can be done to improve the appearance of your nose, but you should be seen by someone who specializes in what we call a “cleft-lip nose”. A cleft lip nose can be very noticeable in some, yet exhibit only minor deformities in others, and the difference is usually related to the severity of the original cleft lip. It is unlikely that any corrective surgery has ever been done to your nose, since it is rare to operate on a baby’s nose while it is still developing. (Read More)
Q. I am the mother of 4 children and nursed all of them for nearly a year each. I have small breasts but my nipples are too big and honestly just look like they are stretched out. They were not like that before I had children so I think it is related to four years of nursing. Can this be fixed?
A. Yes, yes, yes. You have what is called nipple ptosis. It absolutely was caused by 4 years of nursing. The procedure to correct the problem is relatively simple. The reason nipple ptosis occurs is that the nipple gets stretched by the nursing baby. This creates the problem that the base of the nipple no longer has the tissue strength to support the nipple, so it basically just hangs down. (Read More)
Q. I had a face lift about 15 years ago and have been very happy. However, my cheeks are again beginning to sag, especially in the jowl area. I am 68 years old and do not think I want to go through another face lift. Is there an alternative to a full face lift to re-tighten my relaxed cheek skin?
A. Assuming that you are healthy, there may be a couple of options for you. If you have recurrent laxity of the skin in the cheek and jowl area, then probably the best choice for you is to undergo a cheek lift. A cheek lift is not as aggressive as a full face lift and the goals of a cheek lift are more limited. A cheek lift will tighten the jowls, re-establish a nicer jawline, and soften the nasolabial fold. The nasolabial fold is the crease between the corner of the nose and the corner of your mouth. The cheek lift will not significantly improve any skin laxity of the neck, if there is any present. The surgery to tighten the cheek can be performed under local anesthesia and a little Valium by mouth or heavier sedation if you so choose. (Read More)
Q. I have heard that there are some technologies that will tighten the skin of the neck and face so that a face lift can be avoided. Is this true and does it work well?
A. The answer to your question is that there is a technology that has been developed to tighten skin. It uses radio frequency waves to create heat which contracts the skin. (Read More)
Q. I have heavy upper eyelids with too much skin hanging down. How can I find out if my insurance will pay for an upper eyelid lift?
A. There is a very simple and painless test that ophthalmologists perform in their office called a visual field test. It will measure whether the redundant upper eyelid skin is obstructing your peripheral vision or not. (Read More)
Q. I am contemplating having fat injections in my buttock area. I have seen a surgeon who has scheduled my surgery. However, I recently read some reports about problems with butt lift procedures using fat. Before proceeding, I just want to make sure the procedure is safe. What is your opinion regarding a Brazilian butt lift with fat?
A. Like all elective surgical procedures in plastic surgery, a butt lift is generally considered safe, however there are potential risks that one takes when undergoing this surgery. Brazilian butt lifts have become quite popular, especially in South America but also, to a lesser extent, in the United States. The number of these procedures being performed in this country has been steadily rising over the last ten years. The procedure involves transferring fat from one part of a patient’s body to the buttock area. The fat is first harvested by way of liposuction of, for example, the abdomen, love handles, hip rolls, and thighs. The fat is cleaned and then concentrated by removing fluids. Once the fat has been prepared, it is reinjected in the buttocks. The harvesting of the fat is performed in a very traditional fashion using standard liposuction. This part of the process is considered very safe with limited risks. (Read More)
Q. I would like to know when I should replace my breast implants. I had an augmentation about 10 years ago in another state. I know that I have saline implants but do not know anything else about them. When should I plan to replace these implants?
A. This is a good question and one that I face every day in my practice. Before I answer your question about when to replace a breast implant, let me say that you should make an effort to get as much information as you can about your implants from the doctor that placed them. Most plastic surgeons will keep breast implant records for many years. It is always good to know the manufacturer of your implants, the size of the implants, the date of placement of the implants, and whether the implants are under or on top of the muscle. This information will be of great benefit to the plastic surgeon who may be replacing them in the future. Also, if the implant is leaking, the manufacturer will often provide new implants at no charge, so knowing the manufacturer is beneficial to you. (Read More)
Q: I had a breast augmentation with silicone implants about 2 years ago. My right side is perfect, but my left side is very hard and does not look natural. My surgery was done in another state and I have moved to the Triad area and do not have a plastic surgeon. What can be done to improve the appearance of my “bad side”?
A: What you describe is called a capsular contracture and is caused by aggressive scarring that has formed around your implant. It is not known exactly why contracture forms in a woman’s breast but it is postulated, and evidence is beginning to support, that hardness is caused by a bacterial infection around the implant. The infection is sub-clinical, meaning that it does not cause any symptoms such as fever, swelling, redness, or pain. (Read More)
Q: I am 42 years old and have fine lines on my cheeks and around my mouth. I do not have any saggy skin on my face but I do hate the fine wrinkles. I grew up on the coast and abused my skin when I was a teenager. Now it seems that I am paying for this mistake. Is there anything that works to smooth fine lines on the cheeks and around the mouth?
A: It is difficult to completely eradicate fine lines on the face, but there are certainly some non-surgical options that will improve the skin. First and foremost, start protecting your skin against further damage with regular application of a good broad spectrum higher SPF (above 35) sunscreen. This one step in your daily skin care regimen is the most important thing that you can do, both to reduce additional premature aging and to protect your skin against skin cancer, which is epidemic in the South. (Read More)
Q. Is there any way to get rid of the signs of aging on my upper chest? I have brown spots, red spots, and wrinkles. I confess I do go into the sun a fair amount.
A. First, let me say that it is OK to go into the sun but you must protect yourself with a good sunscreen. It is so common for me to hear how careful patients are protecting their face, but they forget to put sunscreen on their chest. So as a result, some of the worst sun damage I see in my practice is in the décolletage area. (Read More)
Q. I would like to have some filler like Juvederm® injected into my cheek folds that run from my nose to my mouth. These folds have progressively gotten more noticeable as I have aged. I read online that one of the complications of filler to the face is blindness, so I have held off doing the injection. Is this true and if so, is it very common?
A. Online sources of information can sometimes be misleading, but in this case the information that you read is correct. Blindness is a potential, albeit rare, risk with any injectable into the face. It is most associated with hyaluronic acid fillers, such as Juvederm® and Restylane®. (Read More)
Q. I recently had the breast cancer gene test and was found to be BRCA2 positive. My mother died of breast cancer at 40 and I am now 36. My mammograms are clear so far but I have been advised to consider removing both of my breasts to protect myself from the disease. What is the best form of reconstruction for double mastectomy if I chose to go this route?
A. I applaud you for having the gene test for breast cancer. You now can take some control over the disease rather than the disease having control of you. As you have probably been informed, there are two genes that are commonly evaluated to see if a patient has an increased risk of breast cancer, BRCA1 and BRCA2. BRCA is an abbreviation for BReast CAncer. (Read More)
Q. I recently moved to the Triad area after living in the Northeast for most of my life. I am interested in having some plastic surgery on my eyes but I do not know how to find the right plastic surgeon since I am relatively new here. Can you give any advice on making sure I pick a good doctor?
A. There is no absolute science to picking a good doctor in any specialty. Fortunately, in plastic surgery most everything is somewhat elective and you at least have time to investigate your choices and visit several plastic surgeons before making a decision. You did not say what kind of eye surgery you are contemplating, so I am assuming that it is some type of cosmetic surgery of the eyelids. My suggestion is to first ask your primary care doctor to give you a list of 2 or 3 plastic surgeons who he/she would recommend. (Read More)
Q. A few years ago I had a facelift. Most everything went well except where the facelift scar went into my hair in the temple area. I now have a bald spot about the size of a nickel, but only on one side. It is not that noticeable except when my hair is wet. Is there anything that can be done to get hair to grow back? My plastic surgeon basically told me that it is not noticeable and not to worry about it.
A. It is not unheard of to have some loss of hair in the temple area after a facelift. The hair loss is generally due to tension caused by the pulling of the skin when doing the lifting of the face. If the tension at the incision is significant enough, it can reduce the circulation of blood to the skin around the incision. Hair follicles are very sensitive to reduced blood flow and can result in the hair bulb, where the hair grows, dying. This leads to a bald spot. (Read More)
Q. The hole in my earlobe where my earring sits has gotten progressively larger over the years. My earring now does not sit nicely against the earlobe but hangs down. Can the hole in the earlobe be made small again?
A. Yes, it can. It requires a small surgical procedure to remove the enlarged hole and suture the skin back together again. The repaired earlobe hole is allowed to heal for about three months, then the lobe can be re-pierced. The procedure is performed under local anesthesia and has no down time after the repair. The key in the future after re-piercing is to not wear heavy earrings that pull on the hole causing it to elongate again.