By Bridget Blakely Taylor
They say that some things just run in the family. This could not be more true for Hampton Roads physicians Dr. T. Randall Blanchard of Plastic Surgery Center of Hampton Roads and Dr. Z. Christine Marcuson of Peninsula Dermatology Skin Cancer Surgery Center. Despite working in different specialties for different practices, the siblings work together to remove skin cancer and help patients restore the appearance of the face or scalp.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, and about 4.3 million adults are treated for the condition each year. The most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell skin cancers and melanoma. As outlined by the National Cancer Institute, Hampton reported an average of 28 melanoma cases a year between 2015 and 2019. However, nearby Virginia Beach reported the most cases in the Commonwealth, with an average of 200 new melanoma cases a year.
While treatment options vary based on location, type and severity of the cancer, one common treatment for skin cancer is Mohs surgery. This is a precise surgical technique that combines surgery and microscopic analysis to remove skin cancers of the face and neck, with cure rates of up to 99 percent. During this procedure, a dermatologist with fellowship training in Mohs surgery excises the cancer in stages, removing one small section of skin at a time and examining it under a microscope. Excision continues until there is no more cancer detected. The defect is then repaired by the Mohs surgeon or a board-certified plastic surgeon.
Marcuson joined Peninsula Dermatology Skin Cancer Surgery Center (formerly Dermatology Specialists) in 1998, bringing Mohs surgery to the Peninsula and her hometown. She is board certified by the American Board of Dermatology, a member of several medical and dermatologic societies and has been named a Top Mohs Surgeon by Virginia Living magazine.
While Marcuson aims to preserve normal skin and reduce scarring for the best functional and cosmetic outcome, some cases require further intervention to properly close the wound. As patients grapple with the effects of skin cancer, closing the wound and removing scarring can vastly improve their quality of life and their confidence. This is where Marcuson’s brother, Blanchard comes in.
Blanchard joined the Plastic Surgery Center of Hampton Roads team in 1999. He is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, is consistently named a Top Doc All-Star by Coastal Virginia magazine, was recognized as a Top Doc 2013 in Hampton Roads magazine’s “Best of the 757” and is a member of many professional organizations. While Blanchard has experience performing many different cosmetic procedures (with the tummy tuck being one of his favorites), he often receives patient referrals from his sister for Mohs closure surgery.
The goal of Mohs closure surgery is to heal wounds that are opened during skin cancer removal and reconstruct the skin for natural-looking results. Marcuson takes care of precise skin cancer removal, and Blanchard then takes an individualized approach to close the wound and reconstruct the area with minimal scarring, including skin grafts, skin flaps or stitches.
The connection of both doctors extends deeper than just practicing medicine in the Hampton Roads community. As natives of the region, they both always knew that after receiving their medical education, they wanted to return to the area to serve their community. After more than 20 years of practicing medicine here, they have had the privilege of building long-lasting relationships with their neighbors both inside and outside of the office.
“Just like we are family, many of our patients are from the area or retired here and share our passions for boating and the region. It is rewarding to form a connection and ease their fears while giving them the most precise care our specialties have to offer. The opportunity to do this in collaboration with my brother is incredibly rewarding and one of the biggest blessings of coming home to practice,” says Marcuson.
Blanchard echoes this sentiment. “Being diagnosed with skin cancer and navigating this disease is a physically and emotionally taxing experience. I am grateful to work with my sister and pick up where she left off to help patients in our community feel good about their appearance after cancer,” he says.
The decision to serve cancer patients in the area is also a personal one. Marcuson shares how she and her brother’s experience with cancer in their family has shaped their passion for helping others: “Our parents both passed away from internal cancers,” she says. “That has shaped my approach to patient care and I know it has shaped my brother’s as well. The ability to help someone else’s parent, spouse or sibling navigate the experience with skin cancer with precision and compassion is a privilege neither of us takes lightly.”
TO THE POINT:
Dr. T. Randall Blanchard
Plastic Surgery Center of Hampton Roads
Address: 895 City Center Blvd., Ste. 300, Newport News, VA 23606
Dr. Z. Christine Marcuson
Peninsula Dermatology Skin Cancer Surgery Center.
Address: 11844 Rock Landing Dr., Ste. B, Newport News, VA 23606