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Kaelyn Bujnoch
Phone: 281.274.8085

Groundbreaking procedure for facial melanoma performed at Methodist Sugar Land Hospital

Sugar Land, TX - 7/6/2012

The first sentinel node biopsy procedure for facial melanoma was performed recently at Methodist Sugar Land Hospital. The treatment team was directed by plastic surgeon Jon Mathy, M.D. and included Methodist Sugar Land Hospital’s Nuclear Medicine department.

Jon Mathy, M.D. and Mr. Gordon BaxterJon Mathy, M.D. and Mr. Gordon Baxter

The face is one of the most common locations for melanoma, and melanoma is the leading cause of death from skin cancer, resulting in some 9,000 deaths per year. Prognosis can change dramatically when the melanoma is found to spread to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes.

“If you have melanoma of the head and neck,” says Dr. Mathy, “then it’s important to talk with your doctor about the benefits of looking beyond the skin surface to the lymph nodes in the area.”

Sentinel node biopsy is effective in identifying the sentinel, or first, lymph node to which cancer may spread. Once identified, the sentinel lymph node can be removed through biopsy and examined for evidence of cancer.

“Sentinel node biopsy offers more information about prognosis,” says Dr. Mathy. “It can open doors to other treatments and can help detect advanced melanoma faster than any other modality out there.”

The standard of care for treatment of head and neck melanoma has been to discuss the role for sentinel node biopsy with certain deeper melanomas at the same time as melanoma excision.  Until recently, the community surrounding Methodist Sugar Land Hospital did not have the option of sentinel node biopsy locally available.

For patients with facial melanoma, access to a multidisciplinary team in the community where they work and live results in better care. “Melanoma can be a highly morbid and frightening disease,” says Dr. Mathy. “It’s helpful to treat patients in their own community, where they can lean on the support of family and friends.  When indicated, additional treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy can also be administered in our community.  And when treatment is over, long term follow up can return to the referring providers in the community, further facilitating the patient’s continuity of care.”

The patient on whom the sentinel node biopsy was performed had a favorable outcome. “Dr. Mathy told me there were no signs that my cancer had spread,” says Mr. Gordon Baxter of Rosenberg. “I was relieved to hear that I wouldn’t need any more treatment. I knew I was in good hands with Dr. Mathy and his team at Methodist Sugar Land Hospital. And I was so happy I didn’t have to travel downtown to have the procedure.”

Identifying melanoma as early as possible improves outcome. Practice the ABCDs of melanoma. Look out for skin lesions or moles that have: a) asymmetry, where half of the mole looks different than the other half, b) irregular borders, c) multiple colors, or d) diameter greater than an eraser-head. 

If you note any of the ABCDs, or notice any newly changing lesions, then talk with your primary care physician or dermatologist. They can refer you to a specialist for further evaluation when needed.

Dr. Mathy is a board-certified plastic surgeon who trained at Stanford and Harvard Universities. He has fellowship training in head and neck oncology and has special interest and experience in melanoma, skin cancer and other cancer reconstruction.

For an appointment with Dr. Mathy or another plastic surgeon in your area call Methodist Sugar Land Hospital’s physician referral line 281-274-7500 or visit MethodistSugarLand.com.

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