Skin Cancer Surgery
Skin cancer for the most part is curable ! when caught early..... Suspicious lesions shouldn't be ignored, as they may grow and become more difficult to remove (excise) and or spread throughout your body. Health insurance should cover an exam and if necessary the surgical removal (and tissue diagnosis) of the growth. Please DON'T ignore a lesion that has begun to grow, change in color, it's borders have become irregular, bleeds and refuses to heal.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than 3.5 million new cases are reported each year - and the incidence is rising faster than any other type of cancer. While skin cancers can be found on any part of the body, about 80 percent appear on the face, head, or neck, where they can be disfiguring as well as dangerous.
The primary cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet radiation - most often from the sun, but also from artificial sources like sunlamps and tanning booths. In fact, researchers believe that our quest for the perfect tan, an increase in outdoor activities, and perhaps the thinning of the earth's protective ozone layer are behind the alarming rise we're now seeing in skin cancers. Anyone can get skin cancer - no matter what your skin type, race, or age, no matter where you live or what you do. But your risk is greater if…
- Your skin is fair and freckles easily.
- You have light-colored hair and eyes.
- You have a large number of moles, or moles of unusual size or shape.
- You have a family history of skin cancer or a personal history of blistering sunburn.
- You spend a lot of time working or playing outdoors.
- You live closer to the equator, at a higher altitude, or in any place that gets intense, year-round sunshine.
- You received therapeutic radiation treatments for adolescent acne.
By far the most common type of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma. Fortunately, it's also the least dangerous kind - it tends to grow slowly, and rarely spreads beyond its original site. Though basal cell carcinoma is seldom life threatening, if left untreated it can grow deep beneath the skin and into the underlying tissue and bone, causing serous damage (particularly if it's located near the eye). Squamous cell carcinoma is the next most common kind of skin cancer, frequently appearing on the lips, face, or ears. It sometimes spreads to distant sites, including lymph nodes and internal organs. Squamous cell carcinoma can become life threatening if it's not treated. A third form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma, is the least common, but its incidence is increasing rapidly, especially in the Sunbelt states. Malignant melanoma is also the most dangerous type of skin cancer. If discovered early enough, it can be completely cured. If it's not treated quickly, however, malignant melanoma may spread throughout the body and is often deadly.
Two other common types of skin growths are moles and keratoses. Moles are clusters of heavily pigmented skin cells, either flat or raised above the skin surface. While most pose no danger, some - particularly large moles present at birth, or those with mottled colors and poorly defined borders - may develop into malignant melanoma. Moles are frequently removed for cosmetic reasons, or because they're constantly irritated by clothing or jewelry (which can sometimes cause pre-cancerous changes). Solar or actinic keratoses are rough, red or brown, scaly patches on the skin. They are usually found on areas exposed to the sun, and sometimes develop into squamous cell cancer.
Basal and squamous cell carcinoma can vary widely in appearance. The cancer may begin as a small, white or pink nodule or bump; it can be smooth and shiny, waxy, or pitted on the surface. Or it might appear as a red spot that's rough, dry, or scaly … a firm, red lump that may form a crust … a crusted group of nodules … a sore that bleeds or doesn't heal after two to four weeks … or a white patch that looks like scar tissue. Malignant melanoma is usually signaled by a change in the size, shape, or color of an existing mole, or as a new growth on normal skin. What for the "ABCD" warning signs of melanoma: Asymmetry - a growth with unmatched halves; Border irregularity - ragged or blurred edges; Color - a mottled appearance, with shades or tan, brown, and black, and sometimes mixed with red, white, or blue; and Diameter - a growth more than 6 millimeters across (about the size if a pencil eraser), or any unusual increase in size. If all these variables sound confusing, the most important thing to remember is this: Get to know your skin and examine it regularly, from the top of your head to the soles of your feet. (Don't forget your back..) If you notice any unusual changes on any part of your body, have a doctor check it out.
Skin cancer is diagnosed by removing all or part of the growth and examining its cells under a microscope. It can be treated by a number of methods, depending on the type of cancer, its stage of growth, and its location on your body. Most skin cancers are removed surgically. If the cancer is small, the procedure can be done quickly and easily, in an outpatient facility or they physician's office, using local anesthesia. The procedure may be a simple excision, which usually leaves a thin, barely visible scar. If the cancer is large, however, or if it has spread to the lymph glands or elsewhere in the body, major surgery may be required.
The treatments mentioned above have good cure rates for most basal cell and squamous cell cancers - and even for malignant melanoma, if it's caught very early, before it's had a chance to spread.
The different techniques used in treating skin cancers can be life saving, but they may leave a patient with less than pleasing cosmetic or functional results. Depending on the location and severity of the cancer, the consequences may range from a small but unsightly scar to permanent changes in facial structures such as your nose, ear, or lip. Reconstructive techniques - ranging from a simple scar revision to a complex transfer of tissue flaps from elsewhere on the body - can often repair damaged tissue, rebuild body parts, and restore most patients to acceptable appearance and function.
After you've been treated for skin cancer, your doctor should schedule regular follow-up visits to make sure the cancer hasn't recurred. Your physician, however, can't prevent a recurrence. It's up to you to reduce your risks by changing old habits and developing new ones. (These preventative measures apply to people who have not had skin cancer as well.)
- Avoid prolonged exposure to the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and during the summer months. Remember, ultraviolet rays pass right through water and clouds, and reflect off sand and snow.
- When you do go out for an extended period of time, wear protective clothing such as wide-brimmed hats and long sleeves.
- On any exposed skin, use a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15. Apply it liberally, about an hour before you go out, and reapply it frequently, especially after you've been swimming or sweating.
- Finally, examine your skin regularly. If you find anything suspicious, consult Dr. Weiss as soon as possible.