Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than 500,000 new cases are reported each year, and the incidence is rising faster than that of any other type of cancer. While skin cancers can be found on any part of the body, about 80 percent appear on the face, head, or neck, where they can be disfiguring as well as dangerous, prompting many women and men to seek out Kalamazoo corrective skin cancer treatments.
Dr. Scott Holley has received special training to assess and treat skin cancers, and to correct the appearance of skin cancer after healing. You can learn more about appropriate measures you can take to correct skin cancer or its effects on your appearance when you request a consultation online or contact West Michigan Plastic Surgery by phone at (269) 222-1611.
The primary cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet radiation -most often from the sun, but also from artificial sources like sunlamps and tanning booths. In fact, researchers believe that our quest for the perfect tan, an increase in outdoor activities, and perhaps the thinning of the earth’s protective ozone layer are behind the alarming rise we’re now seeing in skin cancers.
Anyone can get skin cancer-no matter what your skin type, race or age, no matter where you live or what you do. But your risk is greater if…
Two other common types of skin growths are moles and keratoses.
Moles are clusters of heavily pigmented skin cells, either flat or raised above the skin surface. While most pose no danger, some-particularly large moles present at birth, or those with mottled colors and poorly defined borders-may develop into malignant melanoma. Moles are frequently removed for cosmetic reasons, or because they’re constantly irritated by clothing or jewelry (which can sometimes cause pre-cancerous changes).
Solar or actinic keratoses are rough, red or brown, scaly patches on the skin. They are usually found on areas exposed to the sun and sometimes develop into squamous cell cancer.
Basal and squamous cell carcinomas can vary widely in appearance. The cancer may begin as small, white or pink nodules or bumps; it can be smooth and shiny, waxy, or pitted on the surface. Or it might appear as a red spot that’s rough, dry, or scaly…a firm, red lump that may form a crust…a crusted group of nodules…a sore that bleeds or doesn’t heal after two to four weeks…or a white patch that looks like scar tissue.
Malignant melanoma is usually signaled by a change in the size, shape, or color of an existing mole, or as a new growth on normal skin. Watch for the “ABCD” warning signs of melanoma: Asymmetry-a growth with unmatched halves; Border irregularity-ragged or blurred edges; Color-a mottled appearance, with shades of tan, brown, and black, sometimes mixed with red, white, or blue; and Diameter- a growth more than 6 millimeters across (about the size of a pencil eraser), or any unusual increase in size.
If all these variables sound confusing, the most important thing to remember is this: Get to know your skin and examine it regularly, from the top of your head to the soles of your feet (don’t forget your back). If you notice any unusual change on any part of your body, have a doctor check it out.
If you’re concerned about skin cancer, your family physician is a good place to start. He or she should examine your skin at your annual physical, and can refer you to a specialist if necessary.
If you notice an unusual growth yourself, consult a plastic surgeon or a dermatologist. Both are skilled at diagnosing and treating skin cancer and other skin growths. A plastic surgeon can surgically remove the growth in a manner that maintains function and offers the most pleasing final appearance- a consideration that may be especially important if the cancer is in a highly visible area. If a treatment other than surgical excision is called for, the plastic surgeon can refer you to the appropriate specialist.
Skin cancer is diagnosed by removing all or part of the growth and examining its cells under a microscope. Battle Creek and Kalamazoo skin cancer treatment options include a number of methods, depending on the type of cancer, its stage of growth, and its location on your body.
Most skin cancers are removed surgically, by a plastic surgeon or a dermatologist. If the cancer is small, the procedure can be done quickly and easily, in an outpatient facility or the physician’s office, using local anesthesia. The procedure may be a simple excision, which usually leaves a thin, barely visible scar. Or curettage and desiccation may be performed. In this procedure the cancer is scraped out with an electric current to control bleeding and kill any remaining cancer cells. This leaves a slightly larger, white scar. In either case, the risks of the surgery are low.
If the cancer is large, however, or if it has spread to the lymph glands or elsewhere in the body, major surgery may be required. Other possible treatments for skin cancer include cryosurgery (freezing the cancer cells), radiation therapy (using X-rays), topical chemotherapy (anti-cancer drugs applied to the skin), and Mohs surgery, a special procedure in which the cancer is shaved off one layer at a time. (Mohs surgery is performed only by specially trained physicians and often requires a reconstructive procedure as follow-up.)
All of the treatments mentioned above, when chosen carefully and appropriately, have good cure rates for most basal cell and squamous cell cancers – and even for malignant melanoma, provided it’s caught very early, before it’s had a chance to spread.
You should discuss these choices thoroughly with your doctor before beginning treatment. Find out:
If you have any doubts about the outcome, your surgeon will be happy to spend time addressing your specific concerns before you begin treatment.
The different techniques used in treating skin cancers can be life saving, but they may leave a patient with less-than-pleasing cosmetic or functional results. Depending on the location and severity of the cancer, the consequences may range from a small but unsightly scar to permanent changes in facial structures on your nose, ear, or lip, for example.
In such cases, no matter who performed your initial treatment, the team at West Michigan Plastic Surgery can be an important part of your treatment team. Dr. Holley has received recognition for his skill in reconstructive and cosmetic surgical techniques – which can range from simple scar revision to a complex transfer of tissue flaps from elsewhere on the body. He has helped many patients repair damaged tissue, rebuild body parts, and restore their appearance and function to an acceptable level.
After you’ve been treated for skin cancer, your doctor should schedule regular follow-up visits to make sure the cancer hasn’t recurred. However, your physician can’t prevent a recurrence. It’s up to you to reduce your risks by changing old habits and developing new ones.
Preventive measures you can take (these apply to people who have not had skin cancer, as well):
Portage and Battle Creek board certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon, Dr. Scott Holley, and the team at West Michigan Plastic Surgery understand that each patient has different motivations and goals for his or her procedure. Experience for yourself the advantages of high-quality care, natural and beautiful outcomes, and an understanding surgeon when you contact West Michigan Plastic Surgery today at (269) 222-1611, or online by clicking the button below.Contact Us