Skin cancer affects two-thirds of Australians. The types of skin cancer are basal and squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. We will be exploring skin cancer recognition, screenings, and treatment.
Melanoma vs Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer
Melanoma cancer originates in the melanocytes. Melanoma is more dangerous than nonmelanoma because melanoma is more likely to metastasize (spread through the body).
What Skin Cancer Looks Like
Use the ABCDE method to spot suspicious moles.
- Asymmetric shape-Are the two sides of the mole shaped differently?
- Border-Does the edge of the mole lack clear definition, is it oddly shaped, jagged or have indentations?
- Colour-is the mole mottled with a mixture of black, blue, brown, pink, or white?
- Diameter-A cancerous mole can be any size, but generally, a mole with a diameter larger than 6mm is cause for concern.
- Evolving-has the size, shape, and or, colour of the mole changed?
A mole that itches or bleeds may be cancerous. If any of the above conditions are present see a skin cancer specialist immediately. For more information about skin cancer visit website.
Who Treats Skin Cancer
Usually, dermatologists treat pre-cancers, basal cell, and squamous cell cancers are. Advanced skin cancer may require treatment by an oncologist. The types of oncologists that may be consulted are medical, radiation, and surgical.
Examining Yourself For Skin Cancer
Early skin cancer detection starts with a self-exam using the aforementioned ABCDE method. Check every area of the body including behind the ears and areas not normally exposed to the sun like the underarms. For areas that you can’t easily see use a mirror or ask someone else to look for you. The area between the buttocks needs to be checked.
A Professional Skin Cancer Screening
The patient disrobes and puts on a medical gown. The patient should point out any areas of concern to the doctor. The doctor examines the patient’s entire body including the bottom of the feet. The doctor will assess any suspicious moles he or she finds. Generally, a skin cancer screening takes about 10 minutes.
The doctor will look for sun damage to the skin that may be pre-cancerous. Any suspicious moles will be removed and biopsied. The mole removal is pain-free but not sensation free. Once removed the mole will be examined by a pathologist who determines if the mole is cancerous.
Basal and Squamous Cell Carcinoma Treatment
Basal and squamous cell carcinomas are usually removed surgically. An electrodesiccation and cautery may be performed. The cancerous area is removed and heat in the form of electrical current is applied. The heat staunches bleeding and kills any remaining cancer cells.
How Melanoma is Treated
Before melanoma surgery, a sentinel node mode biopsy is performed to see if cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. The surgery to remove a melanoma is more involved than the surgery to remove the other two forms of skin cancer. The size and depth of the tumour will determine how extensive the surgery is. Depending on the size and location of the incision a plastic surgeon may work with the dermatologist.
Factors That Determine Treatment
There are variables that determine how skin cancer is treated.
- Cancer type
- Stage the cancer is in
- Tumour location
- Tumour size
This is only a partial list of factors. Skin cancer is survivable if diagnosed and treated early. That is why regular self-examinations and screenings by a dermatologist are so important.