Surgical Dermatology

Skin Cancer Treatment

Skin cancer has high remission rates when detected and treated early. Treatment options include medical and surgical procedures depending on the type of cancer, its location, and the individual’s needs. The various treatment options available are: Surgical Excision, Electrodessication and Curettage (ED&C), Cryosurgery, Mohs Micrographic Surgery, and Laser Surgery. Those with fair skin who sunburn easily are at a particularly high risk for developing skin cancer. Other factors include repeated medical and industrial x-ray exposure, scarring from diseases or burns, occupational exposure to compounds such as coal tar and arsenic, and family history. The three most common skin cancers are Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC), and Malignant Melanoma.

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer and appears frequently on the head, neck, or lower body as a pearly bump or a red patch. BCCs are typically found on fair-skinned people and usually do not grow quickly. If left untreated, the cancer will often begin an endless cycle of bleeding, crusting over, and healing. It can cause more damage by extending below the skin to the bone and nerves.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common skin cancer and is typically located on the rim of the ear, face, lips, and mouth of fair-skinned people. The cancer may appear as a bump or red, scaly patch and can develop into large masses. SCC can occasionally metastasize, or spread to remote areas. Early detection and treatment is the best option.

Malignant Melanoma is the most deadly type of skin cancer. It begins in the melanocytes, the skin cells that produce the brown or black pigment called melanin. Since melanoma cells usually continue to produce melanin, the cancer appears in mixed shades of tan, brown, and black. In other causes it can appear red or white. Melanoma can metastasize, or spread to remote areas, making early detection and treatment essential. Melanomas are usually greater than 6mm in diameter (size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed. They tend to appear different than other moles, changes appearance, itches, and/or bleeds.

Mohs micrographic surgery is a specialized, highly effective technique for the removal of skin cancers. Mohs surgery differs from other skin cancer treatments by permitting immediate and complete examination of the removed cancerous tissue. Some skin cancers can be deceptively larger and more extensive than they appear to be on the surface, with possible “roots” in the skin or along blood vessels, nerves, or cartilage. Mohs surgery is specifically designed to remove these cancers by tracking and removing the cancerous “roots”. The procedure removes only the cancerous tissue, sparing healthy, normal tissue. Due to how the tissue is removed and examined, Mohs micrographic surgery is recognized for the highest reported cure rate among skin cancer treatments.