Skin Cancer Removal / Reconstruction
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States and involves abnormal growth of skin cells that can form anywhere on the body, but most frequently appear on skin that has been exposed to the sun. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds can result in DNA damage that leaves the skin susceptible to cancer. There are more than a million new cases of skin cancer in the U.S. each year and the earlier you catch skin cancer, the easier it is to cure.
There are three major types of skin cancer that affect associated layers of the skin:
1. Squamous cell carcinoma affects the squamous cells, which are just below the outer surface of the skin and serve as the inner lining. It usually appears as a scaly patch that does not heal.
2. Basal cell carcinoma affects the basal cells, which lay under the squamous cells and produce new skin cells. They can appear as pearly or nodular and sometimes have tiny blood vessels around them.
3. Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer and affects the melanocytes, which produce melanin, the pigment in skin. Watch for a spot that is multicolored, asymmetric or has irregular borders.
Skin cancer can often be identified as a new or changed growth on the skin that may often occur on the scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, chest, arms, hands or legs. The appearance of the growth depends on the type of cancer, but if you notice the ABCDE warning signs in a mole, contact your doctor:
A: Asymmetry - One half of the mole doesn't look like the other half
B: Borders - The border of the spot is irregular, blurry or notched
C: Color - The spot consists of more than one color or shade
D: Diameter - The mole or freckle is bigger than the size of a pencil eraser
E: Evolving - A changing mole that is growing or altering shape or color
It is important to see your doctor if you notice any skin changes. Early detection is valuable in successfully treating skin cancer. Regular full body screening by your dermatologist is recommended as well and frequent follow-up appointments for patients with previously diagnosed skin cancer. A biopsy is performed to properly diagnose a suspected cancerous growth.
Treatment for skin cancer depends on the type, size and location of the lesion. Most options remove the entire growth and usually require a simple excision and wound closure using only a local anesthetic. Sutures are usually absorbable and there is little to no down-time after the procedure. This may be done in the office or in minor surgery in the hospital. Specimens are sent to the lab for diagnosis and a pathology report.
Sometimes surgical reconstruction after skin cancer removal is necessary, especially to obtain the best cosmetic results in a highly visible area, such as the face. Skin grafts (full-thickness or split-thickness), skin flaps (rotational or transpositional) and Z-plasty are all frequently used techniques to ensure optimal healing and aesthetic outcomes. Sometimes these need to be performed under IV sedation or general anesthesia in the hospital but patients generally go home the same day.
Dr. Taylor can also coordinate scheduling with a Mohs surgeon to perform reconstructive surgery the same day as or the day after Mohs surgery.
Each treatment plan is highly individualized for each patient, but remember. the earlier you catch your skin cancer, the easier it is to cure! And although most treatment for skin cancer is successful, new tumors can still form. It is important to practice preventive measures, use sunscreen and see your doctor on a regular basis. You can also perform self skin checks to spot any changes as soon as possible.