What is Skin cancer?
Any tumor or lesion arising in the skin caused by uncontrolled cell division is classified as skin cancer. More than 1 out of every 3 new cancers are skin cancer.
What causes Skin cancer?
While there may be a genetic predisposition (family history or skin type) to skin cancer, statistics show that 90 percent of all skin cancers are caused by long-term, unprotected exposure to the sun's UV rays. Those at highest risk are people with fair skin, blond or red hair, and those with blue, green or grey eyes, and workers in outdoor occupations.
The three forms of skin cancer are:
- Basal Cell Carcinoma: The most common type of skin cancer, basal cell carcinomas originate from the skin’s basal cells, which make up the deepest part of the epidermis (uppermost layer of skin). They are caused by skin exposure to UV radiation, both cumulative (lifelong) and intense brief periods. It is extremely rare for this form of cancer to spread to other parts of the body (metastasize). However, a BCC should be treated as early as possible to avoid extensive surgery.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common form of skin cancer, is a malignant tumor of skin’s top layers. SCCs are caused by extensive lifelong sun exposure as well as childhood sunburns, with fair-skinned people at the highest risk of developing the disease. SCCs can sometimes spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body, if they are left untreated.
- Melanoma: Malignant melanoma is a cancer of melanocytes (the skin’s pigment cells) and usually appears irregular in color and bordering. It is the most dangerous type of skin cancer; while it is very treatable in its early stages, it has the potential to spread to other organs (metastasize).
How do we treat skin cancer?
Any skin growths that your practitioner finds suspicious will be recommended for biopsy. A skin biopsy is a procedure performed under local anesthesia, during which a small portion of a suspicious lesion is removed and sent to a laboratory for testing. If testing determines that a lesion is malignant, you will return to the office for skin cancer removal.
Skin cancer removal methods include:
- Curettage: An instrument called a curette is used to scrape away malignant (cancerous) tissue. In many cases, three layers may be removed to ensure that all malignant cells are removed.
- Topical chemotherapy: Abnormal cells are destroyed by topical prescription medications, such as 5-fluorouracil, which are applied to the skin cancer lesion at home.
- Surgical excision: Cutting a skin cancer out completely, then closing the area with sutures.
- Cryosurgery: Liquid nitrogen is used to treat superficial lesions by freezing the tissue. The lesion becomes dark and crusty and then falls off in about a week.
- Mohs surgery: When a skin cancer is found on a delicate area such as the nose or lips, you may be referred to a special surgeon for Mohs surgery. Mohs surgery is a highly precise removal method which involves surgically removing very thin layers of a skin cancer and testing each while the patient waits in the office. This allows the surgeon to see exactly where the malignant cells persist. Layers are removed until the skin is clear of any cancer cells.
What can I expect?
At Orentreich Medical Group, our vast experience combined with cutting edge procedures and state of the art tools will provide you with a pain-free, complete skin cancer removal. Skin cancer removal is a pain-free experience, as the area is completely anesthetized prior to removal. We will also consult with you on the best options for any scar revision as a result of a skin cancer removal. Skin cancer removal must be monitored afterward to assure the skin cancer has not spread.
Learn more about skin cancer:
Skin Cancer Foundation
Have a question about your treatment?
We have a dedicated triage nurse (RN) who answers patient questions during office hours. If you have a problem or question about a procedure or a prescribed medication, please call our office and ask to speak to our nurse. If she is unable to answer your question, she will consult with your practitioner and return your call.