Skin Cancer Treatment

Any new, changing, growing or bleeding mole or lesion should be evaluated by your dermatologist.

Basal Cell Carcinoma:
BCC is the most common form of skin cancer, affecting about 2 million in the US a year. Although it does not have a high metastasis rate, it can be very aggressive and destructive if not treated promptly. It can present in a variety of ways, but often is a pearly colored or pinkish-red shiny bump. It most commonly occurs on the sun exposed areas of the body like the face, scalp, neck, shoulders and back of older patients, although it can occur on any area of the body and in any age group. This is seen more often in those with fair skin, light eyes, freckles and a high incidence of sun exposure. Generally, the treatment is simple and consists of a shave biopsy of the lesion for diagnosis. Further treatment with a deeper shave removal, electrodessication or topical medications may be needed. In some instances surgical excision, Mohs micrographic surgery, or radiation may be required.

Basal Cell Carcinoma of forehead.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma of forehead.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma:
SCC is the second most common form of skin cancer and does have the ability to metastasize and cause fatalities if left untreated. About 40-60 percent of SCCs arise from an actinic keratosis, also known as precancerous lesions. SCCs often presents as a red scaly patch, an open sore, a wart-like growth, or a raised lesion with a depression in the center. It usually affects individuals in their 50s-70s with light skin, light eyes, a history of high amounts of sun exposure, or on previous or current sites of trauma, burns, scars, and ulcers. SCCs can affect any area on the body, including in the mouth and on the genitalia, but usually occurs on sun exposed areas. Treatment consists of a biopsy of the lesion, and if further treatment if needed consisting of possible topical medications, cryotherapy, electrodessication and curettage, photodynamic therapy, surgical excision, Mohs Micrographic surgery, or radiation therapy.

Melanoma:
Melanoma is the most aggressive form of skin cancer and can affect those in any age group and of any color of skin. If not caught early, it can metastasize quickly and cause death. If treated early it is almost always curable. Those at risk include individuals with one or more of the following: fair skin, light eyes, red or blond hair, freckles, history of blistering sunburns in childhood, anyone with a blood relative who has had melanoma, atypical moles (dysplastic nevi), or a compromised immune system.

Images courtesy of the National Cancer Institute http://www.cancer.gov

Warning signs of melanoma:

  • The “ugly duckling sign” (any mole or growth that looks different than the rest of the moles and growths on your body).
  • Asymmetry: If you draw a line through the center of the mole, the 2 halves will not match.
  • Border: Uneven borders with notching or scalloped edges.
  • Color: A variety of colors, or change in color.
  • Diameter: Larger than 6mm or ¼ inch (the size of the tip of a pencil eraser).
  • Evolution / Elevation: A mole that is changing or growing, either spreading or becoming raised.

Treatment includes surgical excision, Mohs Micrographic surgery, Chemotherapy and other adjunctive therapies.