Last week, news broke that The Real Housewives of New York City star Bethenny Frankel had a growth removed and was being tested for cancer. It came after a fan asked about the Band-Aid on her right cheek when Frankel posted a video on Instagram.
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Now, we learn that this growth has officially been diagnosed as basal cell carcinoma, which means she will undergo surgery to have it removed. “The doctor confirmed it is indeed basal cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer, and says while it is cancer, I am lucky to have it removed—so it won’t affect my overall health,” the reality star told People.
The removal surgery is called Mohs and it will be immediately followed by plastic surgery to get rid of any scarring.
To get a better understanding on what the surgery entails, we spoke with New York dermatologist, Adebola Dele-Michael, MD. “Mohs micrographic surgery is a skin-sparing technique that allows dermatologic surgeons to precisely identify and remove as much skin cancer as possible, while leaving the surrounding healthy skin intact,” she explains. “In this technique, skin cancer is removed layer by layer, and the excised skin is examined under a microscope until healthy, cancer-free, clear margin is achieved.”
Since the surgery is on such a microscopic level, Greenwich, CT, dermatologist Kim Nichols, MD says, “It is often done for skin cancers of the face and neck so that the scar result is as small as possible and looks cosmetically elegant.” It seems that there isn’t much for Frankel to worry about though as Dr. Dele-Michael points out there is a very high success rate, approaching 99 percent.
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As for recovery, California dermatologist Amelia K. Hausauer, MD, explains, “Facial skin where Mohs surgery is usually performed tends to heal very well, but we can always help it along.” First, she says they may recommend silicone gel or sheeting combined with massage therapy. Another option is Botox, which can help prevent scarring by limiting the tension on the edges of the wound. For further prevention, they can tailor a resurfacing plan to the patient if need be. “My plastic surgeon partners and I frequently recommend a combination of microneedling with or without platelet rich plasma, a component of your blood high in growth factors that accelerates normal healing,” she explains. “Bottom line, the best approach plans the procedure well to minimize scars then individualizes each step along the way.”
This type of news will make anyone think about their sun protection practices, Frankel included. She wants to remind people that there are extreme risks to being in the sun. “I love to swim in the ocean and go to the beach, but this is a reminder that the sun is not your friend,” she says. “This was a sharp reminder why it is so important that I religiously wear large hats to cover my face and reapply sunscreen.”
Though she doesn’t lose sight of how lucky she is to have caught it early on. “I am extremely lucky to have caught it in time, and it just goes to show you have to know your body and be very aware of any changes.”