What are the signs of skin cancer?
A lesion on the skin which grows rapidly, changes in colour, has an irregular border, bleeds, itches or changes rapidly is suspicious and should be looked at by a plastic surgeon with an interest in skin cancer.
What does the management of skin cancer involve?
In the vast majority of cases your surgeon will be able to make a clinical diagnosis with regard to whether or not the lesion represents a cancer and if so the type of skin cancer it represents. In the event that your surgeon is not completely sure of the diagnosis based on the appearance of the lesion a small biopsy is be taken under local anaesthetic to achieve a histological (laboratory) diagnosis before proceeding with treatment.
What are the common types of skin cancer?
The common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma.
How do these skin cancers differ in their behaviour?
A basal cell carcinoma is normally confined to the area of origin and does not spread to other parts of the body.
A squamous cell carcinoma if allowed to grow unchecked can spread into the lymph nodes and sometimes into the blood stream.
A malignant melanoma can spread by lymph nodes or by the blood stream to the other parts of the body.
What does surgery for skin cancer involve?
Once a diagnosis of a skin cancer has been made your surgeon will arrange for the lesion to be removed. This procedure may be carried under local anaesthetic or may require a general anaesthetic depending upon the size of the lesion and the type of reconstruction that is required.
Small lesions can be removed and the skin can be closed directly resulting in a straight line scar. Larger lesions may require repair with either a skin graft from another part of the body or skin flap from an adjacent area.