Skin Cancer Treatment
Basal cell cancer is the most common skin cancer. It does not usually spread to other areas of the body, but can destroy normal tissues. When treated early, the cure rate is 98 percent. You should suspect skin cancer if an open sore develops and doesn’t heal in two weeks or an area of skin bleeds easily. These cancers can be treated with surgery or radiation therapy, and in extensive cases, both surgery and radiation therapy are used. A biopsy is performed to confirm the diagnosis of cancer. For certain cancers, a technique called “Moh’s” is used to remove the cancer. This technique is the most reliable way to make sure all of the cancer is removed. Plastic surgeons are experts in repairing the “hole” left from removing the cancer.
Is this mole a beauty mark or a life-threatening skin cancer?
Many melanomas begin as moles. Fortunately, there are certain characteristics, known as the ABCD’s of melanoma, that are used to evaluate moles and determine the need for biopsy or removal. The ABCD’s stand for:
- Asymmetry — A normal mole should be symmetrical in shape, meaning, if folded in half, the opposing edges would match pretty closely. An asymmetrical lesion should be biopsied.
- Border — A normal mole should have a regular, smooth border. Borders that are scalloped or irregular are an indication for biopsy.
- Color — A normal mole should have a uniform color. Moles with different shades of color, especially if there has been a change in colors, should be biopsied.
- Diameter — Moles come in various sizes. Moles with a diameter greater than 6mm-the size of a pencil eraser-should be biopsied.
Keep in mind that these indications for biopsy do not mean these moles are melanoma, but they have a higher chance of being malignant.
Squamous Cell Cancer
Squamous cell cancer is the second most common form of skin cancer. Unlike basal cell cancer, squamous cell cancer can spread to the lymph glands and other areas of the body, especially when detected late. These types of cancers may initially appear as a “pimple.” However, they never heal. They may even be painful.
This type of skin cancer is often preceded by a “premalignant” condition known as actinic keratosis, which consists of red, scaly patches of skin. Actinic keratosis can be effectively treated with freezing or topical creams to prevent it from advancing on to skin cancer. Both surgery and radiation therapy are used to treat this type of cancer.
Melanoma is the most lethal type of skin cancer. Unfortunately, new melanomas are being diagnosed at an alarming rate. It is predicted that one in 75 Americans will be diagnosed with this potentially lethal form of skin cancer. Six of seven deaths from skin cancer are from melanoma. Early detection is the key to survival. The survival rate in early melanomas is 95 percent.
Sentinel Node Mapping
Sentinel node mapping is a relatively new technique used to determine whether melanoma has spread to lymph nodes. The doctor first introduced this technique to the Akron, OH area in 1996. It is now also used in breast cancer cases.
What is a Biopsy Procedure?
After careful evaluation of your skin, the doctor may recommend a biopsy of a suspicious area or mole. Depending on the size and location of the skin lesion, a biopsy involves removal of part or the entire lesion in question. The biopsy is performed using local anesthesia in the office. The biopsy specimen is sent to the lab for further evaluation and final diagnosis. Once the results are known, additional recommendations are made.
Surgery for Treatment of Skin Cancer
Surgery is the most common treatment for skin cancer. Advantages of surgery are:
- the treatment is effective
- the removed specimen can be evaluated by a pathologist to make sure it is completely removed
- it is time- and cost-effective
What Are the Benefits of Having a Plastic Surgeon Treat Your Skin Cancer?
Plastic surgeons are “surgeons of the skin” and are considered specialists in the treatment of skin cancer. In fact, treatment of skin cancer is the most common reconstructive procedure performed by plastic surgeons. While removing the cancer is the primary goal, the reconstruction following removal is also highly valued. Plastic surgeons are trained to reconstruct defects and deformities created by removing skin cancer. This is particularly important when the cancer involves an area on the face where appearance is highly valued.
Skin Cancer Prevention
Many skin cancers develop slowly from sun-damaged skin, known as actinic keratosis. This pre-cancerous condition, which appears as red, scaly areas of skin, can be successfully treated in its early stage with topical medications, peels, and lasers. These medical treatments are not only treating the pre-cancerous condition, but are also improving the skin appearance, texture, and overall attractiveness of the face.
Does Insurance Cover Treatment of Skin Cancer?
Treatment of skin cancer, including reconstruction, is considered “medically necessary” and is covered by most health insurance plans.