K10 — March 2008 — Skin Cancer Reconstruction
Intro: Remember what it was like to be a teenager? How embarrassing it was to have a blemish or a bad hair day? So imagine being 17 – a diagnosis of melanoma – and you end up with a large bald spot where the skin cancer was removed. This young lady survived that, and thanks to reconstructive surgery at Mayo Clinic she rarely has a bad hair day.
"I WAS BASICALLY ON THE FLOOR GOING LIKE THIS, PULLING OUT PIECES OF MY HAIR."
SARA GUNSOLUS HAD AN AGGRESSIVE FORM OF CHILDHOOD MELANOMA, SKIN CANCER, WHICH LOOKED LIKE A LARGE A BLACK MOLE ON HER SCALP. SURGEONS AT MAYO CLINIC REMOVED IT.
"WE HAD TO CLOSE IT WITH A SKIN GRAFT AND THEN THE UNFORTUNATE THING FOR SARA WAS THAT IT LEFT AN AREA OF HER SCALP THAT DIDN'T HAVE HAIR."
DR. SARVAM TERKONDA SAYS IT WAS A THREE-BY-FIVE INCH BALD SPOT. AND THAT'S A REALLY TOUGH THING FOR A TEENAGE GIRL TO FACE. "PRETTY MUCH THIS WHOLE AREA WAS BALD." ABOUT A YEAR LATER, AFTER RADIATION AND CHEMOTHERAPY, DR. TERKONDA AND HIS TEAM PERFORMED ANOTHER PROCEDURE TO GIVE SARA HER HAIR BACK. "WE PLACED WHAT WE CALL TISSUE EXPANDERS ADJACENT TO THE SURGICAL SITE."
EXPANDERS ARE LIKE BALLOONS UNDER THE SKIN. EVERY WEEK, DR. TERKONDA INJECTED SALINE INTO THESE BALLOONS AND SLOWLY STRETCHED SARA'S SKIN. AFTER THREE MONTHS SARA WENT BACK TO SURGERY WHERE DR. TERKONDA TOOK OUT THE EXPANDERS, REMOVED THE SCARRED SKIN AND BROUGHT THE STRETCHED SKIN TOGETHER – ELIMINATING HER BALD SPOT.
"IT KIND OF FELT WEIRD HAVING BUBBLES IN YOUR HEAD BECAUSE THEY WERE SQUISHY." THERE'S STILL A SCAR UNDER THERE, BUT SARA SAYS NOW EVERY DAY IS A GOOD HAIR DAY.
FOR MEDICAL EDGE, I'M VIVIEN WILLIAMS.
Sara has been cancer free for three years. Her plan is to finish college and become an elementary school teacher.
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