Early detection and treatment of skin cancer has been one of the most significant advances in dermatologic surgery in the past decade.
An average skin cancer patient has a “spot” that is changing.
Sometimes it is “a bump that won’t heal”, “a mole that changed color” or “a sore that is bleeding”.
Other times it is a mole that is growing, bleeding, or itching.
Common skin cancers include basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.
Of all types of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma is the most common. Fortunately, they tend to grow slowly and remain localized.
They frequently appear on sun-exposed parts of the body.
Common appearances of a basal cell include a fleshy bump with a pearly surface, a scar-like lesion or a bump that bleeds.
A more severe but less frequent type of skin cancer is known as squamous cell carcinoma.
It frequently appears as a scaly, red patch or nodule that grows.
Common locations include the nose, ears, hands and scalp (especially in men that have lost their hair).
Early diagnosis and treatment is a key to preventing any skin cancer from growing into melanoma, which is a potentially fatal disease.
Malignant melanoma is the most serious type of common skin cancer.
Typically, it appears as a mole that changes size, bleeds or begins to itch. Most melanomas are asymmetric due to cells growing at different rates.
Many have an irregular border, are more than one color and have a diameter of more than 5 mm.
Early detection and prompt intervention by a dermatologist are the best treatment for melanoma.
If the lesion is suspicious, a biopsy should be performed.
During a skin biopsy, a small piece of skin (typically smaller than a pencil eraser) is removed.
The procedure uses local anesthetic and takes a few minutes.
Excisional surgery refers to excising (cutting out with a scalpel) a lesion, and then suturing the area to close it.
A dermatopathologist evaluates the edges of the tissue removed to determine whether the margins of the specimen are free of cancer.
A typical procedure takes about 15-30 minutes. Common cancers treated with excisions may include: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.
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