Click to View Latest IssueClick to View Latest Issue

University of Kansas Department of Plastic Surgery: Helping Cancer Patients Find a New Sense of Self

By  0 Comments

The journey a woman experiences with breast cancer is a long and arduous one. But for those at the end of their trek, many encounter the warm, welcoming and experienced staff at The University of Kansas Physicians plastic surgery services.

Amy Goldman, LPN, LE, CLT, nurse and medical aesthetician at the health system’s Indian Creek Campus, offers services to women coming to the end of their breast cancer journey. Her co-worker is Bethany Engravalle, LME, medical aesthetician; both experts are trained to apply skin and body care services to any woman or man desiring treatment, and they can also extend special services to breast cancer patients.

Aesthetic Assistance
“After a breast reconstruction, the patients are told not to shave under their arms because they might be numb and run the risk of nicking themselves, which could result in an infection. But they still grow hair, and that makes many women feel unfeminine,” shared Amy. “We carefully shave them in the office and then we give them four complimentary laser treatments, typically spaced six to eight weeks apart. The result of a successful treatment series is a decrease in hair volume and thickness, and the hair more than likely will not come back. Of course, everyone is different, and not everyone is a candidate. Laser hair removal only works on dark hair, so unfortunately blondes and light redheads are not candidates.”

In addition, women who go through chemotherapy or radiation can experience drastic changes in their skin’s appearance. Amy and Bethany will evaluate their skin and review the products they’re currently using, making suggestions for new regimens and services to counteract the chemo and radiation.

“We’re here to listen without judgment and to help them through a very hard time. It’s not about the dollar sign or selling a product or service they don’t need. It’s about helping them over a hurdle in their life,” Amy added.

Working alongside Amy and Bethany is Christine Tebben, RN, whose specialty is employing Botox™ and dermal fillers to help her patients achieve a better sense of self, especially those who are coming to the end of their cancer journey. She understands the damage skin can undergo during cancer treatment, and she calls upon her nine years of experience and knowledge at The University of Kansas Physicians plastic surgery services to help her patients.

Skin Rejuvenation
“For women with breast cancer, their medications cause the skin to have a lack of hydration, loss of oils and an increase in dryness. The skin loses its elasticity; dullness and wrinkling can occur along with sensitivities such as rosacea. There’s also a lack of volume in the face,” shared Christine. “If I can increase hydration or lessen wrinkles, it can be the one thing that puts them on a positive path. The effect you can have on someone in helping them become the best version of themselves is amazing.”

Given that the skin is our largest organ, Christine has her work cut out for her. However, she has a number of tools and techniques she can call upon, including hydrating facials and treatments. She can also treat patients with Botox, which reduces wrinkles caused by an aggressive cancer medication regimen or simply by aging and sun exposure. Dermal fillers can help fill in lines and creases, resulting in a more youthful-looking appearance. They can rejuvenate areas of the face that have lost volume. Most injections are quick, comfortable and require no down time.

“These products are no more of a commitment than doing gel nails. In fact, patients can come back for readjustments along the way or they can stop treatments. These products offer so much customization for your look,” remarked Christine. “I help my patients establish short-term and long-term goals, and I try to understand what’s bothering them and what their budget is. I listen to them describe how they looked before, but I don’t want to spend too much time on that. I want to bring out the best in them at this particular moment. After cancer treatment, they’re a different person on the inside and out. I want to help each person move ahead to where they are now.”

Warmth and Understanding
She also shares that consultations are free and low pressure. “We’ve created a spa-like environment that’s warm and relaxing, yet our medical team is just on the other side of the facility,” Christine stated. “It’s important for people to call, make the appointment and come in. We can help them dip a toe or jump in with two feet. We’ll meet them where they’re at in their recovery.”

The journey is a difficult one for women dealing with breast cancer. But it’s comforting to know that the compassionate plastic surgery experts at The University of Kansas Physicians will take great pride in offering them special services from the beginning and all along the way. ■

Visit the University of Kansas Medical Center Department of Plastic Surgery at Suite 210, 10777 Nall in Overland Park, Kansas, or 3901 Rainbow Boulevard in Kansas City, Kansas.