Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States. The vast majority of these occur on the face, head, and neck because those areas tend to be “unprotected” most of the time. Repeated sun exposure with the UV radiation is the most common cause of skin cancer but tanning booths and sun lamps can contribute as well.
The easiest way to help protect yourself from skin cancer and reduce your risk is to use sunscreen (with a minimum SPF 30) daily. If you have additional questions about extra steps you can take to protect your skin, consult with Dr. Erella for free by calling (512) 686-0012 today.
Anyone Can Develop Skin Cancer, But Who Is Most at Risk?
- Fair skin
- Light colored hair and eyes
- Family history of skin cancer
- Large number of moles
- History of blistering sunburns
- History of radiation treatment to the face
Three Main Types of Skin Cancer
- Basal cell carcinoma (BCCA)
- Squamous cell carcinoma (SCCA)
- Malignant melanoma
Each has specific characteristics that predict their behavior. The most common type of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma, which is usually least invasive. Fortunately, because they generally grow slowly and rarely spread elsewhere. Malignant melanoma, on the other hand, is the most dangerous because of the potential to spread throughout the body.
It is important to get a physician consultation for any suspicious changes to the skin. Non-healing lesions or changes in the color, size, or borders of moles should raise suspicion.
What Is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer is an abnormal growth of cells in the skin layer which can cause damage and distortion to parts of the body. The ears, nose, and lips are common areas for skin cancer to develop because of their direct exposure to the damaging UV rays of the sun. Aggressive melanomas can be dangerous if they are not caught early.
Who Is a Good Candidate for Evaluation and Possible Treatment?
- Anyone with a non-healing skin lesion
- Any changes in an existing mole, such as darker color, irregular margins, growth beyond the size of a pencil eraser or bleeding
- Family history of skin cancers
- Family history of many moles
- Documented skin cancer by biopsy and the need for complete removal and reconstruction
The Surgical Treatment of Skin Cancers
The primary goal of treatment is the removal of the skin cancer cells. Removing BCCA and SCCA are generally performed with a margin of normal skin and confirmed by the pathology evaluation. If the removed lesion has any cancer cells at the margins, then further removal of skin is indicated.
Malignant melanomas are treated differently. Depending on the depth of involvement of the melanoma in the skin, the margin of “normal” skin around the edge that is removed will vary. Also, a certain depth of involvement may indicate the need to remove a sample of lymph nodes that drain that area of the body to check for any potential spread of the melanoma cells.
Any removal of skin cancers will require closure of the resultant wound. These options vary from directly closing the area in a line, to skin grafts, to moving skin from the surrounding area (skin flap) to more complex reconstructions. These options are also dictated by the location of the cancer, whether it is on the nose, the ear, or elsewhere.
Dr. Erella is a board certified plastic surgeon who has performed many flaps for Moh’s surgery. Our goal is to completely remove the cancer and perform near normal looking ways of repairing the defects.
Recovery and Healing
- Initial healing is 5 to 7 days when sutures are generally removed.
- Elevation of the surgical site is helpful.
- Limited activities for 1 week and possibly longer.
While individual results will vary, for most patients the skin cancer will have been removed. It is important to monitor your skin to make sure there are no irregularities. Malignant Melanoma patients will have to see their physician on a regular basis for skin surveillance.
Scars of various degrees will be present. Although these scars are often made to be as inconspicuous as possible, some can be more visible and some may go on to develop more scar tissue.
Please use sun block and do not delay evaluation if you observe any suspicious skin changes. If you’re concerned about changes in the pigmentation of your skin, please call(512) 686-0012 or contact Aspira Plastic Surgery online for a consultation with Dr. Erella at our facility in Austin, Texas.