Skin Cancer Surgery
At L.A. Vinas, we have extensive experience with a variety of procedures for treating skin cancer. The doctor always achieves the highest quality cosmetic outcome for his patients. He is skilled in numerous excision and reconstruction techniques, including the creation of flaps and grafts when medically necessary. All of our surgical procedures are performed on site with the use of local anesthesia. The doctor encourages his patients to become educated about skin cancer and skin cancer prevention.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States and involves abnormal growths of skin cells that can form anywhere on the body, but most frequently appear on skin that is exposed to the sun. There are more than a million new cases of skin cancer in the US each year. Although most cases of skin cancer can be successfully treated, it is still important to keep skin safe and healthy and try to prevent this disease.
There are three major types of skin cancer that affect associated layers of the skin. These major types are:
- Squamous cell carcinoma affects the squamous cells, which are just below the outer surface of the skin and serve as the inner lining.
- Basal cell carcinoma affects the basal cells, which lay under the squamous cells and produce new skin cells.
- Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer and affects the melanocytes, which produce melanin.
Every day, skin cells die and new ones form to replace them in a process controlled by DNA. Skin cancer can form when this process does not work properly because of damage to DNA. New cells may form when they are not needed or older cells may not die. This can cause a growth of tissue known as a tumor. DNA damage is often a result of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight or tanning lamps. Since skin cancer can sometimes affect areas not exposed to the sun, heredity may also be a factor.
Certain factors, such as fair skin, moles, a weakened immune system, and age, can also increase the risk of skin cancer.
Signs and Symptoms
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 can appear as:
- Pearly or waxy bump
- Flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesion
- Firm, red nodule
- Crusted, flat lesion
- Large brown spot with darker speckles
- Shiny, firm bumps
- A mole that changes shape or color
- A mole or growth that starts to itch or bleed
- A mole that is black
- A dark mole that all of a sudden grabs your attention that never did before
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 is recommended as well. A biopsy is performed to properly diagnose suspected cancerous growths.
Treatment for skin cancer depends on the type, size, and location of the tumor. There are several options that we give our patients at L.A. Vinas. Each individual skin cancer on each patient is treated differently. Patients are encouraged to be actively involved in their treatment decisions. Here are the things most commonly offered at our office.
- Excision – the abnormal tissue, as well as some surrounding healthy tissue, is cut out of the skin. The skin is put back together with sutures and the specimen that was cut out is sent back to the lab to ensure complete removal of the skin cancer.
- Radiation Therapy – if a patient had a tumor covering a large surface area or does not want any disfiguring surgery then superficial Radiation Therapy is offered as a treatment choice. It requires several treatments but there is no cutting, scarring, or pain involved.
- Chemotherapy – uses drugs to kill cancer, may be applied through creams or lotions for top layer tumors
Other treatment options are also available, including new methods that are currently being studied.
Although most treatment for skin cancer is successful, new tumors can still form. It is important to practice preventive measures and see your doctor on a regular basis. You can also perform self-skin checks to spot any changes as soon as possible.
Skin Cancer Prevention
To prevent skin cancer, sunscreen should be applied on a daily basis. It should be applied every 40-80 minutes based on the recommendation of the directions on the back of the sunscreen bottle. Daily moisturizers with an SPF of 30 or more are good when one is not going to be out in the sun for more than 10 minutes at a time. Make sure to apply 1oz of sunscreen, the size of a shot glass, each time that sunscreen is applied. When buying sunscreen one wants to make sure that they get at least a 30 SPF but the higher the block the better. The bottle should say that the sunblock is broad spectrum and water resistant. The FDA requires that sunscreen provide protection for at least 3 years so if you have had it for over 3 years you should discard it. Some sunscreens have expiration dates and if the expiration date has passed, discard the sunscreen. If the consistency or odor of the sunscreen has changed or if the color has changed then it should be discarded. Remember, sunscreen alone is not the only answer. One should seek shade, wear protective clothing, use sunglasses and a hat, and avoid peak sun hours whenever possible.
*Individual results may vary