Understanding skin cancer
Cancerous growths are caused by mutations (abnormalities) in skin cells’ DNA. It is usually (but not always) the result of UV exposure, through either natural sunlight or tanning beds. There are several forms of skin cancer, each appearing a little different. Early detection is the key to effective treatment.
What is cancer screening?
To the untrained eye, deadly cancers can look like harmless moles or other skin lesions. We stress the importance of awareness, and educate our patients about the warning signs. However, cancer can be subtle in appearance, and some areas of your body are not easy to self-inspect.
Skin cancer screening is performed by a trained professional, who can spot the early signs of suspicious lesions. We recommend that most patients have a screening every twelve months. For those with high risk factors, the frequency may be every three or six months.
What happens next?
If nothing is found, you can go on about your business with the peace of mind of knowing that you are cancer-free. If we see any signs of cancer, a biopsy is needed for a definitive diagnosis. It only requires a small tissue sample, which is sent to a laboratory. Once the condition is diagnosed and the severity is determined, we will discuss the best course of action. Skin cancer can usually be removed completely, when it is detected early.
It is important to know your own skin, familiarize yourself with the appearance of your moles and other benign lesions, and be aware of changes. Self-examinations should be performed regularly, between professional screenings. Check all areas of your body to the best of your ability, using a mirror. Cancer can appear in seemingly unlikely places like the scalp, between the toes, and areas that are not exposed to the sun.
When to see a dermatologist
In addition to your annual screening, you should call Dr. W Dermatology if you notice any suspicious changes in your skin. Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is frequently mistaken for a mole. If you notice a “mole” that has uneven edges, an odd shape, multiple colors, or an unusually large size, have it checked right away.
Skin cancer treatment at Dr. W Dermatology
We have extensive experience diagnosing and successfully treating various types of skin cancer. Tumors can usually be removed in a simple outpatient procedure, with only local anesthetic. Treatment techniques include:
- Freezing – A topical agent is used to freeze the cancerous lesion, allowing it to be removed easily.
- Electrodessication – Electrical energy is used to destroy cancerous tissue so that it can be removed and healthy tissue is left behind.
- Surgery – Superficial tumors, as well as large, recurring, or aggressive cancers may be removed surgically.