Plastic Surgery Empowers Cancer Patient
Pictured: SLUCare plastic surgeon Dr. Michael Bernstein with patient Nancy Hier, who required reconstructive surgery following treatment for skin cancer.
For Nancy, Surgery was Less About Looks and More About Life
Physical appearance isn't the most important thing about a human being, but it's the first thing most people notice. Feeling good about the way we look gives us the self-esteem we need to succeed at work, form healthy relationships and participate fully in life.
Whether your concerns are strictly cosmetic or you've suffered an appearance-altering trauma, the plastic surgery team at SLUCare Physician Group can help you face the world with confidence. "We're an internationally recognized group of surgeons, researchers and educators who are committed to providing the best care and results for our patients," says SLUCare surgeon Dr. Michael Bernstein, assistant professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Saint Louis University School of Medicine.
SLUCare plastic surgeons excel at a broad range of specialties. "When most people hear the phrase ‘plastic surgery,' the first thing they think of is facelifts, breast augmentations and tummy tucks," Bernstein says. "Of course, we do all those things, as well as Botox, fillers, body sculpting, liposuction and other cosmetic treatments." But cosmetic procedures are relatively simple, he notes. "The function of the face is to look like a face, and it's easier to help a normal face look better than to reconstruct a face that's been destroyed."
We're experts in transplanting healthy tissue from one part of the body to another, we specialize in hand surgery and have successfully regrown severed fingers.”
In addition to cosmetic work, the SLUCare team provides reconstructive surgery for people who have suffered appearance- and function-altering traumas, specialists who can help children born with cleft lip or palate, and wound care for patients with life-threatening pressure ulcers. "We're experts in transplanting healthy tissue from one part of the body to another," Bernstein says. "We specialize in hand surgery and have successfully regrown severed fingers. We work closely with all the surgical specialties, reconstructing chest walls, skulls and noses that have been damaged by cancer, injuries or surgery."
But the aesthetic and functional aspects of plastic surgery aren't isolated from each other. "Some of the greatest developments and techniques on the cosmetic side came from surgeons who dealt with terrible combat injuries and wounds during World War II and Vietnam," says Bernstein, who also serves as chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at St. Louis Veterans Administration Medical Center. "Everything we accomplish on the reconstructive side feeds into the cosmetic side, and vice versa. Everything we learn makes us better at restoring form and function, and the patient benefits. That's what's so rewarding and amazing about what we do."
I was terrified I'd never again look normal or breathe comfortably, but Dr. Bernstein explained every detail clearly and patiently, and restored my nose beautifully.”
Patients are amazed, too. Nancy Hier, 69, lost most of her nose to skin cancer. "The tip and nasal lining were gone, and there was a big hole on one side," she recalls. During three surgeries, Bernstein skillfully rebuilt her nose using skin from her forehead and cartilage from her ear. "I was terrified I'd never again look normal or breathe comfortably," she says. "But Dr. Bernstein explained every detail clearly and patiently, and restored my nose beautifully. I was disfigured by cancer — but you'd never know it to look at me now."
SLUCare Physician Group's plastic and reconstructive surgery team practices at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital, SSM Health St. Mary's Hospital - St. Louis Bellevue Medical Building, and the Center for Specialized Medicine. For more information, call 314-977-4440.
By Tony Di Martino