Skin cancer is common and if treated early the prognosis is usually excellent – hence the need for vigilance, particularly in fair skinned individuals who are at greater risk of developing these lesions.
There are 3 main types of skin cancer:
- Basal cell carcinoma / cancer
- Squamous cell carcinoma / cancer
The first 2 constitute non-melanoma skin cancer and are a direct result of prolonged and sustained sun exposure – most often occurring in the head and neck region. Basal cell cancer, or BCC, is generally the more benign lesion, and can be very successfully treated in the early stages by a dermatologist. They are slow growing, but tend to erode tissues if left unchecked for months, and can result in significant morbidity. I am usually referred patients who remain refractory to first line dermatologist treatment, or who have recurred, and often need to remove a fair amount of tissue to clear the tumour. The defect is then reconstructed using a variety of techniques. Squamous cell cancer, or SCC is usually a more aggressive form of non melanoma skin cancer, and often requires wider excision for control.
Melanoma is a pigmented, malignant, skin condition which can be aggressive and hence early intervention by a Plastic Surgeon with an interest in this cancer is mandatory. Once diagnosis is made, one is usually required to undergo wider excision of the lesion and possibly have lymph glands sampled as well. Early referral to an oncologist is advised. Like all cancers, the key to success is early diagnosis and treatment.