Skin Cancer

  • What is skin cancer?

    Cancer is a tissue which grows at an uncontrollable and unpredictable rate. There are three main forms of skin cancer; basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma. Theses names refer to the types of cells of the skin giving origin to the cancer.
  • Is skin cancer dangerous?

    The most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Both types enlarge locally from the point of origin and usually do not spread to distant parts of the body. If not completely removed, both types will frequently invade and destroy structures in their path of growth. Malignant Melanoma may be life-threatening if not treated early. It usually appears as a brownish-black spot or bump on the skin which enlarges and sometimes bleeds. Occasionally, melanoma can originate in moles which have been present for many years.
  • What causes skin cancer?

    The cause of skin cancer, like other forms of cancer, is not completely known. Excessive exposure to sunlight is the single most important factor associated with the development of skin cancer which appear most commonly on the face and arms. Fair skinned people develop skin cancers more frequently than dark skinned people. Skin cancers also tend to be hereditary and occur frequently in certain ethnic groups, especially those with fair complexions. Other possible factors contributing to the development of skin cancer include overexposure to x-rays, trauma, and some chemicals.
  • How does skin cancer start?

    Skin cancer begins in the upper-most layer of the skin. It can grow downward forming roots and can spread horizontally along the surface of the skin. Unfortunately what appears to the naked eye may only be the "tip of the iceberg".
  • How do you get rid of skin cancer?

    There are many different ways to treat skin cancer. If the cancer is superficial, meaning that it is only in the top layer of the skin, it can be treated with topical chemotherapy creams or a simple "scrap and burn" procedure where the area around the tumor is numbed up and the cancer is curretaged and electrodessicated. For more invasive cancers, an excision can be performed where the lesion is removed by cutting through the epidermal layer and using stitches to close the opening. By far, the most effective way of removing more invasive skin cancers, or those in more delicate areas like those on the ears, lips, or face, is by using Moh's Micrographic surgery. There are three separate steps in the removal of skin cancer by Moh's: A) surgical removal of the visible portion of the skin cancer with excision or curettage; B) surgical removal of a thin layer of tissue at the bed of the cancer; and C) examination of the excised tissue under the microscope. By thorough examination of the bottom portion of the removed tissue, the physician is able to trace out and exactly locate any additional areas for cancer left in the patient. Before this tissue is examined it is marked with color dyes to distinguish top from bottom and right to left. By doing this, we are able to pinpoint the exact location of any remaining tumor under the view of a microscope. If more cancer is present, the procedure is repeated but only the area of the remaining cancer is removed. Moh's is considered a "tissue sparing" procedure, meaning it is able to remove the cancerous lesion without harming healthy tissue.

    Please call to schedule an appointment with one of our highly qualified dermatologists if you are worried about a potential skin cancer spot.

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