Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer. It usually develops in areas that have been affected by chronic sun exposure; the face, scalp, ears, and neck are the most common locations. In its early stages, BCC may appear as a red, scaly patch that doesn’t resolve. As it grows, it becomes a pink, shiny bump that is often mistaken for a pimple. It then progresses to a sore that doesn’t heal and may scab or bleed easily. Fortunately, BCC tends to grow slowly and only very rarely spreads to other parts of the body. However, it is important to treat it early because it will eventually grow deeper and destroy skin, tissue, cartilage or bone.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common type of skin cancer. It also develops in areas that have been affected by chronic sun exposure – the face, scalp, ears, and backs of hands are most common. Women also frequently develop SCC on the lower legs. It is also much more common in people who have suppressed immune systems due to other medical conditions or medications. SCC can begin as a precancerous scaly lesion (actinic keratosis) and then progress to a true skin cancer. They are often firm, rough and tender to the touch. They grow more quickly than BCC and sometimes spread to other parts of the body. However, they are generally highly curable when treated early.
Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. It can develop from an existing mole or it can be a new lesion that developed on previously normal skin. Melanoma often develops in areas of chronic sun exposure, but also can grow in unexpected areas such as the palms or soles or underneath a fingernail or toenail. Signs of melanoma include the ABCDE’s: Asymmetry, Border Irregularity, Color Variation, Diameter greater than 6 mm, and Evolving/changing color, shape or size. When allowed to grow, melanoma can quickly spread to other parts of the body, which can be deadly. Fortunately, when found early, melanoma is highly treatable.
Skin Cancer Treatments
The preferred treatment for your skin cancer depends on the type, size, and location or the tumor. A biopsy is initially performed to ensure the correct diagnosis and to help identify other factors that may affect the treatment.
Some low-risk forms of BCC and SCC are treated with a procedure called curettage. Topical chemotherapy creams can also sometimes be appropriate for these skin cancers. Surgical excision is frequently utilized for BCC and SCC less amenable to curettage or topical treatments. Occasionally, radiation or systemic medications are used.
Mohs micrographic surgery is an advanced treatment for BCC and SCC. It has the highest cure rate and also spares the most normal surrounding skin, which allows for the smallest wound or scar possible. It is used for higher-risk skin cancers or in areas where there is not as much surrounding skin or tissue, such as the face, ears, scalp and hands. After his dermatology training, Dr. David Fieleke completed a Mohs surgery fellowship during which he received extensive training in surgical and reconstructive techniques. He has since completed over 5,000 Mohs surgeries. Please visit our Mohs surgery information page for more details about the procedure.
Melanoma treatment is determined based on the subtype and stage of the cancer, which is determined by a biopsy. Early stage melanoma can be treated with surgical excision alone with a high cure rate. More invasive types of melanoma may require biopsies of lymph nodes or CT/PET scans to help determine if the cancer has spread beyond the skin. If so, more aggressive surgeries and systemic treatments may become necessary.
At Cornerstone Dermatology & Surgery Group, we will help you determine the most appropriate treatment if you do develop a skin cancer. Regardless of the treatment plan, frequent skin examinations are performed to monitor for any signs of recurrence or the development of new skin cancers.