We understand that a diagnosis of skin cancer can be difficult. We will make sure you’re comfortable with every step of your treatment.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. The primary cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet radiation, most often from the sun, but also from sunlamps and tanning booths. Skin cancer can occur on any part of the body, but most commonly is found on the face, head or neck.
Anyone can get skin cancer. Your risk may be 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 received therapeutic radiation treatments for adolescent acne
We want you to be informed before making your choices. Our caring team will take the time to listen to your needs and fully explain everything. We will develop a personal plan customized for your needs. You can feel confident in our excellent care.
Your surgeon will meet with you to determine the best course of action. The discussion may include:
- Types of skin cancer
- Other skin growths
- Diagnosis and treatment
Types of skin cancer
There are three different types of skin cancer.
Basal cell carcinoma – the most common type of skin cancer, it is the least dangerous, grows slowly and rarely spreads beyond its original site. Basal cell carcinoma is seldom life-threatening, but can cause serious damage if left untreated.
Squamous cell carcinoma – frequently is found on the lips, face or ears. It can sometimes spread to other areas such as lymph nodes and internal organs. Squamous cell carcinoma can become life threatening if not treated.
Basal and squamous cell carcinomas can vary widely in appearance. It may begin as a small, white or pink nodule or bump. It can be smooth and shiny, waxy or pitted on the surface. It may also look like a red spot that is rough, dry or scaly, have a crust or a crusted group of nodules. A sore that bleeds or doesn’t heal may also signal skin cancer.
Malignant melanoma – the least common, but most dangerous type of skin cancer. If discovered early, it can be treated and cured. If not treated quickly, malignant melanoma may spread throughout the body and be life threatening. Malignant melanoma is usually found by a change in the size, shape or color of an existing mole or as a new growth on your skin. The warning signs are categorized as “ABCD’:
- Asymmetry – a growth with unmatched halves
- Border irregularity – ragged or blurred edges
- Color – a mottled appearance, with shades of tan, brown and black. Sometimes mixed with red, white or blue.
- Diameter – a growth more than six millimeters across (about the size of a pencil eraser), or any unusual increase in size
Other skin growths
Two types skin growths to be aware of are moles and keratosis.
Moles can be flat or raised above the skin and are clusters of heavily pigmented skin cells. Most moles are not dangerous. Some moles though with mottled colors and poorly defined borders may develop into malignant melanoma. Moles are frequently removed for cosmetic reasons or because they are irritated by clothing or jewelry.
Keratosis is 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.
Diagnosis and treatment
Skin cancer is diagnosed by removing the growth and examining the cells under a microscope. Treatment is determined based on the type of cancer, its stage of growth and the location on your body. Skin cancer may be treated by surgical removal, Mohs surgery, freezing the cancer cells, radiation therapy or topical chemotherapy. Your treatment will be determined based on your skin cancer.
Sometimes the cancer removal will require a scar revision, complex transfer of tissue flaps from elsewhere on the body or reconstruction of facial structures such as your nose, ear or lip. Your surgeon will explain what is required based on your needs.
Each skin cancer procedure is based on an individual’s body and goals. We would be happy to schedule a consultation to answer any questions you may have and provide our recommendation on what we think is best for your situation. You will be well taken care of at HealthPartners Plastic Surgery. We are confident you will be pleased with the results.