Services >> Medical Dermatology >> Skin Cancer Treatment
What is it?
In the interest of protecting your health, learn how to give your skin a "safety check" - a periodic examination from head to toe. You should note the size and location of any moles or growths. If one of these growths begins to change or grow rapidly, please schedule an appointment with us at your earliest convenience. Early detection and removal offer the best chance of curing skin cancer.
ACTINIC KERATOSES are pre-malignances (pre-cancers) recognized as rough-surfaced patches on sun-exposed skin, often better recognized when felt by touch rather than seen by the eye. They are sometimes tender or sensitive, and may have a gritty feel, like fine sandpaper. They are usually treated with liquid nitrogen, applied by a spray or cotton tipped applicator, which can produce a small blister or scab, destroying the pre-malignant cells. They can also be treated with various topical prescription creams. A small percentage of actinic keratoses develop into skin cancers (mostly squamous cell carcinomas), so it is important to have them treated.
There are three major types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma. Here are some forms these cancers can take: BASAL CELL CARCINOMAS are the most common of all cancers, making up the majority of the 1.5 million skin cancers diagnosed annually. Fortunately, they are also the most curable! They virtually never spread to other parts of the body but can invade deeply and potentially disfigure the eyes, nose, lips, ear or other body parts. They can be recognized as pearly bumps with fine blood vessels on the surface or as sores that do not heal for more than several weeks. Less common forms of basal cell carcinoma can resemble a scar that appears for no apparent reason, or even a rash resembling eczema, psoriasis or ringworm but which does not respond to appropriate therapy for these conditions. Basal cell carcinoma has also been mistaken for a pimple that does not resolve.
SQUAMOUS CELL CARCINOMAS usually are rough-surfaced bumps that extend down into the skin so if you squeeze the skin, it feels like a lump. One variety, called a KERATOACANTHOMA , looks like a volcano with a central crater and may be tender as a boil. They usually are only locally destructive, but can have some tendency to spread to local lymph glands (metastasize), especially if they are large (over an inch in diameter), left untreated, or on the lip, ear or central face. BOWEN'S DISEASE is also called SQUAMOUS CELL CARCINOMA-IN-SITU, and refers to a squamous cell carcinoma confined to the top layer of the skin.
MALIGNANT MELANOMAS are usually small brown-black or larger multicolored areas of flat discoloration or bumps, often with irregular outline. They may crust on the surface or bleed. Many of them may arise in pre-existing moles. They do not have to be raised above the skin surface to be malignant. By the time they become raised, they have acquired the potential to metastasize (spread) to the lymph nodes and other organs.
Who is this for?
Everyone should have their skin evaluated for potential skin cancers by their physician.
How does it work?
Skin cancer diagnosis and treatment are among our top priorities. A biopsy is performed at the initial evaluation. If a surgical appointment is needed, it is then scheduled after a diagnosis has been determined by pathology. Our primary goal is to help you understand your treatment options.
Treatment options for skin cancers include excision (easily performed in our office under local anesthesia), curettage and dessication, or Mohs' micrographic surgery. The latter is a specialized type of excision performed by dermatologists in which tumor is excised, analyzed microscopically, and mapped, while the patient remains in the office. Mohs' micrographic surgery is often used for skin cancers on the face, because it is a tissue-sparing surgery with high cure rate. There are some topical treatments for certain superficial types of skin cancer. The appropriate treatment depends on skin cancer type, anatomic location of the cancer, size of the cancer, and patient preference.
Prevention of skin cancer consists of daily use of sunscreens, protective clothing, and sun avoidance. Tanning beds contribute to skin cancer, and should be absolutely avoided. Regular full body skin examinations help to detect pre-cancers and skin cancers in their earliest, most curable stages. In addition, we recommend that you perform a monthly skin examination of your own skin using a full-length mirror and a small hand-held mirror. Any new or non-healing growths should prompt a visit to our office. In the future, there may be therapies that can reverse some of the existing sun-damage in the skin.
None of the above should replace medical advice from a dermatologist. If you are concerned about skin cancer, see your local dermatologist.