Skin Cancer Treatment
As the most common form of cancer in the US, skin cancer affects over two million men and women every year. Luckily, skin cancer can be treatable, but early detection is critical.
Skin Cancer Warning Signs
Because early detection is key, self-examination is important. If you notice any of the following, schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible:
- Scabby areas or scaly patches on the skin
- Moles that have changed size or color
- Moles or lesions that bleed when bumped
- The appearance of an open wound that doesn’t heal
- Anything that doesn’t feel “right” or looks suspicious is worth having checked by an experienced physician
Did you know that almost 90% of skin cancers are linked to UV exposure from the sun? When performing your self-examination, pay particular attention to areas of your body that have been exposed to the sun or show other signs of sun damage, such as hyperpigmentation, sun spots, fine lines and wrinkles, and areas that recently experienced sunburn.
The ABCDE Checklist
The Skin Cancer Foundation created a checklist for early skin cancer detection that lists several important physical changes linked to skin cancer. When performing your monthly self-examination, be sure to look out for the following:
A – Asymmetry: If you could fold the mole in half, would the two sides match?
B – Border: Uneven or inconsistent borders are a warning sign.
C – Color: Are there multiples colors?
D – Diameter: Compare the size of the growth to a pencil eraser. If it is considerably larger, it’s time to get it checked.
E – Evolving: Any changes in shape, color, size, or in the appearance of the growth or mole at all.
If you notice any of these signs, schedule an appointment with your doctor immediately.
Types of Skin Cancer
These three types of skin cancer are the most common:
Melanoma is the most dangerous variety of skin cancer, which develops when UV radiation damage to the skin cells triggers genetic defects that result in tumor growth. Typically resembling moles, the majority of melanomas are brown or black, but can present multiple different shades. For those who have a family history of melanoma, frequent sun exposure can easily provoke malignant tumor growth.
Squamous cell carcinoma is a growth that forms in the squamous cells, which make up most of the epidermis. Caused by continual sun exposure during a lifetime, squamous cell carcinoma often shows up as sores, scabby patches of skin, warts, or elevated areas that bleed when bumped. Squamous cell carcinomas may occur anywhere on the body, but typically appear in areas that experience frequent UV exposure.
Basal cell carcinoma arises in basal cells, which occur in the deepest layers of the epidermis. The abnormal growths or lesions that emerge usually resemble shiny bumps, red patches, or inflamed sores. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer and typically does not spread beyond the tumor site. While it is important to have any growths examined by a doctor, basal cell carcinoma is rarely life-threatening.
The good news is that there are plenty of measures you can take to help prevent skin cancer.
- Wear SPF, always! Harmful UV rays may be more prevalent during specific times of the day or certain seasons, but it is always important to protect your skin from the sun.
- Invest in UV-blocking clothing for outdoor activities, which help you to protect areas where sunscreen is not practical.
- Avoid sunburn at all costs. Just 5 sunburns in your lifetime can quadruple your chances of developing melanoma.
- Stay out of direct sunlight during peak hours of the day. It’s hard to avoid the sun entirely, but staying out of it during its brightest and hottest can make a world of difference.
- Self-examination is of the utmost importance. At least once a month, you should be performing a thorough examination of your body and taking note of any changes or new growths.
- Communicate with your doctor. If something feels “off” but doesn’t necessarily follow typical warning signs, you should see your physician or dermatologist to have the area checked.
Treatment Options in Maryland
There are a multitude of treatment options for skin cancer, depending on the unique circumstances of each patient and the type of skin cancer involved.
Modified Mohs Micrographic Surgery
For certain patients, Dr. Garazo recommends modified Mohs micrographic surgery. A highly effective technique, modified Mohs surgery progressively removes and examines cancer cell-containing skin until only healthy tissue remains. Dr. Garazo recommends modified Mohs surgery for the following situations:
- Recurrent or rapidly-growing tumors
- Tumors occurring in the mid-face and ears
- High-risk or difficult squamous and basal cell carcinomas
- Tumors that are larger than 2 cm in diameter
- Tumors located in areas where radiation was previously performed
If you suspect you have a malignant lesion, it is important to contact your dermatologist or plastic surgeon promptly. As a board-certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Garazo can remove your skin cancer and reconstruct your face with the skills and advanced training of an expert cosmetic surgeon.
Dr. Garazo performs modified Mohs surgery and subsequent plastic surgery reconstruction at his AAAASF accredited surgical facility, meaning that you will not have to worry about coordinating reconstruction with an outside surgeon.
You might also like:
- Our field guide to moles and cancer prevention. Free pdf download. Spoiler alert: If you are curious about your moles, please come in and get them checked.
- Use our skin cancer self exam checklist alongside the field guide to moles. Free pdf download.
- Dr. Garazo offers a version of mohs surgery. Read all about why you might choose a plastic surgeon to perform mohs surgery.
- A recipe for a skin-healthy smoothie.