Skin cancer is a broad term used to define several types of cancer including squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma, as well as melanoma. Melanoma the most serious but less common type of skin cancer.
These types of cancer generally start as a precancerous lesion, or changes in the skin that are not cancerous, but could become cancerous over time. When caught early enough, these cancers can be effectively treated. In later stages, malignant melanoma is potentially fatal and treatment is difficult.
One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime, so it’s important to identify these cases of cancer before they become more serious. Proper skin care includes having an annual skin exam to detect cancers in their earliest and most treatable stages. Intermountain performs these annual screenings and can detect signs of possible skin cancer during the exam. Most insurance providers cover this type of examination.
When is skin cancer removal used?
In a skin exam, the Intermountain Medical Group physician evaluates moles on the patient’s body, which are flat or raised growths on the skin. A typical mole is usually smooth, round, or oval, and no larger than a pencil eraser. Most moles are benign (non-cancerous); however, abnormal moles can develop into melanoma over time if they are not treated.
Getting appropriate treatment means first identifying abnormal moles. Patients who have any of the following signs, or the “ABCDEs” of skin cancer, should talk to their doctor immediately:
- Asymmetry: When one side of the mole does not match the other side. A normal mole should have two uniform sides.
- Border: The edges of the mole are blurry, ragged, or irregularly shaped.
- Color: The mole is made up of different shades or colors. These colors may include tan, brown, black, blue, white, or red.
- Diameter: The diameter of the mole is larger than a pencil eraser.
- Evolving: The mole changes shape, size, or color over time. The mole is different from other moles on the body.
How is skin cancer removal performed?
Pre-cancerous and suspicious lesions of the skin may require biopsy. Proven skin cancers can generally be removed with excision surgery or Mohs surgery, which removes the cancer in very thin layers of the skin.
Our surgeons remove the skin cancer and perform skin reconstruction to preserve health and appearance. Often, pathologists will be involved to ensure that all cancer is completely removed.
What results can I expect?
The choice of skin cancer treatment is based on the tumor’s type, size, location, and depth of skin layer penetration, as well as the patient’s age and general health. Surgery is the primary treatment for skin cancer, but more surgery may be needed to make sure advanced skin cancers have been removed completely.
If the skin cancer has spread (metastasized) from the skin to other organs, other cancer treatments such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy may be needed.
Reconstruction closes the skin cancer defect, but you may be left with visible scars in these areas. Your plastic surgeon will make every effort to treat your skin cancer while restoring your appearance as thoroughly and naturally as possible.