Skin grafts and flaps for soft tissue sarcomas

If a tumour is large or spreading, a larger area of skin may need to be removed. You may need a skin graft or, less commonly, a skin flap to cover the wound. Skin grafts and flaps are layers of skin taken from another part of the body. They are placed over the area where the cancer has been removed.

Skin grafts

A skin graft is a very thin layer of skin. The surgeon (often a plastic surgeon) will take a layer of skin from another part of the body (the donor site). The inner thigh is a common place to take the skin from. It is then put over the area where the cancer has been removed.

Skin flaps

A skin flap is a slightly thicker layer of skin. It is taken from an area very close to the wound where the cancer has been removed. The flap is cut away but left partly connected so it still has a blood supply. It is moved over the wound and stitched in place. You may also have some stitches around the donor site.

After having a skin graft or flap

If you have a skin graft, you can probably go home the same day. If the graft is large, or if you have a skin flap, you may have to stay in hospital. With a skin graft, you will normally have a dressing over the area to press the graft down. This helps to create a good blood supply from the blood vessels underneath.

A skin graft for the face will usually be taken from behind the ear or the neck area. This is done to try to get a good skin colour match. The area where the graft has been placed will look very noticeable to begin with, but will heal in about two weeks. It will then fade and become less obvious. Sometimes a graft is taken from the thigh area. This takes about two weeks or more to heal and may be a bit sore afterwards. The area the graft was taken from will also become less noticeable when it has healed.

Glad to say I’ve made a full recovery. The only side effects are occasional bouts of cellulitis (inflammation) in my left wrist as a consequence of the weaker skin around that area.

Greg

Back to Surgery explained

Limb-sparing surgery

Limb-sparing surgery is when just the area of cancer, and some of the tissue around it, is removed.

Amputation

Sometimes the affected limb needs to be removed (amputated). You will be offered counselling and support before and after surgery.

What happens after surgery?

You’ll be monitored very closely after your operation. You will be very tired so it’s important to rest and look after yourself.

Who might I meet?

A team of specialists will plan your surgery. This will include a surgeon who specialises in your type of cancer.