When it comes to the health of the skin, your dermatologist is your medical specialist who will assist in diagnosis, treatment and management of skin disorders as well as screening for skin cancer. As many as one in five people will develop a form of skin cancer in their life. Since skin cancer tends to develop slowly without any symptoms, it is vital to have regular skin cancer checks by your dermatologist to catch problematic lesions and spots early. The key to successful treatment of skin cancer is an early diagnosis.
UNDERSTANDING SKIN CANCER
Skin cancer is a mutation of normal skin cells. Skin cancer can have a genetic component but is often caused by exposure to the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. Whether or not you are more prone to developing skin cancer will depend on the amount of melanin in your skin. The less melanin you have, the higher your risk of developing skin cancer; thus, those with fair skin should see their skin specialist for screening religiously. With that being said, no one is immune to developing skin cancer, and care should be taken to monitor each and every part of your skin for suspicious lesions.
There are different types of skin cancer, including Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Melanoma. It would be best if you were on the lookout for the following on your skin when doing self-exam:
- Basal Cell Carcinoma – this is the most common of skin cancers and may look like a flesh-coloured or pink pearl-like bump on the skin.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma – this will look like a red firm bump, scaly patch, or a sore that heals and then re-opens.
- Melanoma – this type of skin cancer may suddenly appear as a new dark spot on the skin, or may be noticed as changes to an existing mole. Changes to symmetry, border, diameter, colour or elevation of a mole are cause for concern.
TREATMENT OF SKIN CANCER
If you notice any changes to moles or new lesions on the skin, it is essential that you make an appointment with your dermatologist. While self-exams are important, it can be tricky to see all areas of your own body. Comprehensive skin cancer checks are done to map the skin and track changes to existing moles and identify new lesions. From fingernails to behind your ears, Dr Temi is extremely thorough during these exams. If a suspicious lesion is found, your skin specialist may take a biopsy and send it for testing. In some cases, a lesion or mole may be removed just as a precaution.
In cases where skin cancer is diagnosed, the following treatments may be done by your dermatologist:
- Surgical removal of the mole or lesion and surrounding tissues may be done with a curette or scalpel.
- Cryotherapy in which the growth is frozen with liquid nitrogen.
- Electrodesiccation may be done to burn and destroy cancerous cells with an electrocautery needle.
- Photodynamic therapy may be used to destroy cancerous cells with a light-sensitive drug and light emitting laser.
- Even after treatment, those with a history of skin cancer should see their dermatologist annually for screening as skin cancer may return.