Every scar has a story
Dr. Kelly Griffith-Bauer talks about dermatologic surgery.
July 30, 2020
Every scar tells a story, from falling off a bike as a kid to having surgery. And while most people would prefer not to have a scar, people feel strongly about their scars. During my career, I've seen two contrasting patient populations:
- Patients who are troubled and embarrassed by their scars
- Patients who think about their scars as badges of honor or symbols of survival
The aim of Mohs surgery
The goal of Mohs micrographic surgery is to remove the cancer using a special technique that leaves as much tissue as possible. Unfortunately, this surgery is usually needed in sensitive areas that get a lot of sun, such as the face, ears, scalp and neck.
My role as a Mohs surgeon is to care for skin cancers in my patients. But once the cancer has been taken care of, I know there's a chance my patients could have both physical and emotional scars. Those scars can greatly influence the quality of life of my patients.
With this understanding and passion, I’m always thinking about my patients first and use the same care that I would with my own family. I'll be there to support my patients through surgery and to lessen scarring.
Making scars smaller
Kelly Griffith-Bauer, MD, talks about how to minimize scars and the post-surgery healing process.
Dr. Kelly Griffith-Bauer: Every single scar has a story and I think that’s why it’s such an important role that we play specifically in any surgical specialty because we know that every time that we’re gonna do a procedure we’re exchanging what we’re removing for a scar and that scar is not only going to be on that patient’s skin forever but it’s also going to be part of their story.
I’m Kelly Griffith Bauer, but my patients and I think my whole team they all know me as Dr. Bauer. I’m one of the Mohs surgeons here at the Polyclinic, but also a Surgical Dermatologist, which is a dermatologist who focuses primarily on skin cancer surgeries, cosmetic mole removals or cosmetic surgical procedures and I also do have a small cadre of high-risk skin cancer patients that I follow along with.
Every time we make an incision in the skin, there’s always an exchange. We always have to exchange a mole for a scar. I have to choose what’s going to be the best repair method or stitch up method for that part of the body to give it the best cosmetic outcome. So that’s so part of it is choosing a stitch up method that creates a minimal amount of tension and tension is the key to good scar healing and good wound healing so if you take the tension off the wound meaning if you get the skin the very deep layers of the skin put together as tightly as possible with the stitches that are under the skin that dissolve then that takes tension off the top part of the wound and then the top part of the wound can just be loosely approximated for loosely put together in a way that it’s not pulling apart so that it just rests together and has that opportunity to really heal. The other thing is stitch placement so as every time I’m putting stitches deep under the skin I’m making sure that I’m what’s called wound edge aversion which is a special method for putting the stitch under the skin and those stitches usually only stay in for a week to minimize the amount of track marks and then the rest of it is a tincture of time and mother nature. I’m just really asking the patients to be patient and to let their bodies do the work.
I love to be able to pull up a chair and to sit down and to make sure that my patients understand what their diagnosis is if they are coming in with one. If they know the risks to themselves or why we even feel like we need to take it out in the first place. Whether that’s a skin cancer or whether it’s cosmetic I really want to partner up with them and to help them make an informed decision and that they’re made to feel comfortable through the entire experience.
Tips for being in the sun
When I’m not at the office, I’m outside hiking, running, boating and enjoying the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Even though the sun may not be out in Seattle, it’s always important to be protected from UV exposure and finding ways that work with for your daily routine.
Here are some tips that I share with my patients, friends and family:
- Wear SPF 50 sunscreen or higher if you plan to be in the sun for longer periods of time. Many of my favorite products can be found in a store near you. A couple of my favorites: Sun Bum® sunscreen lotion and the Sun Bum zinc stick.
- Make it easy. If it’s visible, I will use it. I like stashing sunscreen in places that are easy to get to. I have sunscreen in every bag I carry and like to leave it out on the counter, so I put it on before I leave the house.
- Make sure to have your sunglasses close by, and keep an extra pair in your car.
- Sunscreen is not a one-and-done thing. You need to apply it often, especially if you'll be outside for long hours or swimming. The amount of sunscreen you should use for full-body application is about the size of two shot glasses.
- Wear clothes with a tight weave. SPF clothing has tighter fabric design to keep more light out, so you have extra protection.
- Make hats part of your style. I always bring a hat to wear when I am running errands. If your hat doesn’t have a brim, make sure to remember your ears when applying sunscreen. Ears are also affected by the sun.
By Kelly Griffith-Bauer, MD
Dr. Griffith-Bauer does Mohs surgery and sees dermatology patients at The Polyclinic. To schedule a consultation with her, call 1-206-860-5595.
The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs.