According to SkinCancer.org:
Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers, but is also one of the most easily CURABLE cancers.
- Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States and worldwide.
- 1 in 5 American will develop skin cancer by age 70
- 9500 people in the US are diagnosed DAILY with skin cancer, and more than 2 patients an hour die of skin cancer
- Indoor tanning devices can emit UV radiation in amounts 10 to 15 times higher than the sun at its peak intensity.
Types of skin cancer
Skin cancers are broadly categorized into nonmelanoma type skin cancers and melanoma type skin cancers. Nonmelanoma type skin cancers are far more common than melanoma type skin cancers. Nonmelanoma skin cancers also have an overall higher cure rate than melanoma type skin cancers.
Nonmelanoma skin cancers
Nonmelanoma skin cancers are further subdivided into basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinomas. Both of these types of cancers are tumors of cells that “make up” skin. Basal cell carcinomas are the most common type of skin cancer with squamous cells being the second most common type of skin cancer. Both of these cancers have an extremely high cure rate if treated early, and appropriately. Cure rates for these types of cancers can exceed 98-99%!
Melanoma skin cancers
Melanoma skin cancers are tumors of the melanocytes or cells that produce melanin, the pigment of the skin. Melanomas are one of the most aggressive types of cancers. Melanomas frequently metastasize (spread distantly) from the original site of the tumor. Melanomas frequently spread using blood vessels to surrounding organs, but also to the lungs, brain, liver, kidneys, and parotid glands.
This type of spreading pattern is called hematogenous spread. Hematogenous spread and early metastasis makes curing melanoma very difficult, but early detection and early treatment of melanomas can result in cure rates greater than 90%.
According to SkinCancer.org,
“Across all stages of melanoma, the average five-year survival rate in the U.S. is 92 percent. The estimated five-year survival rate for patients whose melanoma is detected early is about 99 percent. The survival rate falls to 65 percent when the disease reaches the lymph nodes and 25 percent when the disease metastasizes to distant organs.”
Detection – How to Diagnose Skin Cancer
Skin cancers are diagnosed via a biopsy. A biopsy is the removal of a small portion of skin, which is then sent to a lab to be reviewed under the microscope. The biopsy procedure is a simple procedure that takes about 5 minutes. It is normally done in the office under local anesthesia. There are two types of biopsies: shave biopsies and punch biopsies.
Shave biopsies involve removing a small piece of skin along the surface of the skin. This type of biopsy is frequently used for presumed squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas. Punch biopsies involve the use of a small instrument to remove a “core” of skin. This type of biopsy is usually reserved for presumed melanomas, because the depth of a melanoma is important for prognostic information.
When should I get a biopsy?
Things to look out for and definitely get biopsied.
A pimple appearing mass that never heals
Skin lesions that chronically bleed
Scaly lesions that bleed or never heal
Areas of the skin bigger than the size of a pencil eraser that are dark, with irregular borders, are asymmetrical, and have color irregularity
Any lesion mass with rapid growth
It is important to look over the entire body including the scalp, and areas such as the feet, and hands. If you have any of the above, or are just concerned, reach out to us for a skin cancer consultation.
How is skin cancer treated?
The gold standard for squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas is a type of surgery called Moh’s Micrographic surgery. Moh’s surgery involves removing the cancer layer by layer, until no cancer remains. The analysis of the resected layers is done in real-time at the time of surgery.
Dr. Athre does not perform the Moh’s surgery, but will refer you to several excellent Moh’s surgeons in the Houston area. Melanomas are usually treated with wide excision, but adjunctive therapies might be needed.
Post Moh’s reconstruction
Following resection of the cancer, the resultant wound is reconstructed. Dr. Athre is an expert at skin cancer post Moh’s reconstruction. See some before and after pictures here.
Dr. Athre understands that the process can be scary, and even overwhelming. The idea of someone “whittling” on your body can be almost too much to bear. The thing to keep in mind is:
- WE CAN CURE YOUR SKIN CANCER
- WE WILL NOT STOP UNTIL WE ACHIEVE THE VERY BEST AESTHETIC RESULT
- WE WILL MAKE YOU NORMAL AGAIN
So, please do not let fear stop you from getting a biopsy or seeking medical care. Early diagnosis means higher cure rates with a better cosmetic outcome because less tissue will have to be resected.