Everyone needs some sun exposure to stay healthy, but too much can not only damage the skin and cause it to age faster, it can also cause skin cancer. The good news is, most skin cancer is treatable if discovered in its early stages, so it is essential to have your skin checked regularly, especially if you notice any growths that are suspicious according to the “skin cancer ABCs”:
- Asymmetry – asymmetric moles are suspicious
- Border – moles should have a crisp border that is not scalloped, notched or indistinct
- Color – the coloring of a mole should be consistent throughout with no variation
- Diameter – the diameter of a mole should be no larger than a pencil eraser
- Elevation – moles that are elevated or raised are suspicious
Skin cancer can occur anywhere on the body, but it most often strikes in areas that experience the most frequent exposure to the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays, such as the face, neck, arms and hands. If you find a suspicious mole or growth on your face or body, it is important to have it checked for cancer immediately. Do not wait.
What to expect during skin cancer treatment
In order to determine whether a growth is cancerous, it will need to be examined and potentially biopsied, or partially removed and examined under a microscope. If you are found to have a non-melanoma skin cancer, such as basal and squamous cell carcinoma, surgical treatment will likely be necessary.
Surgical treatment options for skin cancer include:
- Mohs micrographic surgery – cancerous growths are cut away in thin layers until all abnormal tissue is removed
- Excision – cancerous skin tissue, as well as some surrounding normal skin tissue, is cut out
- Shave excision – a small blade is used to shave off cancerous skin tissue
- Electrodesiccation and curettage – the tumor is cut out with a spoon-shaped instrument and an electrical current is used to destroy remaining cancer cells
- Cryotherapy – cancerous skin tissue is frozen and destroyed
Sutures may be used to close the wound that results from tumor removal, although this is not always necessary. A flap or graft may also be used to replace the skin that was removed if it is in a highly visible area or a large wound.
Recovering from skin cancer surgery
The three main factors that will influence your recovery include:
- The size of the tumor removed
- The method of wound closure (sutures, no sutures, flap or graft)
- The location of the tumor
Swelling, redness, bruising and tenderness are all common after undergoing surgery to treat skin cancer. You should plan on wearing a bandage and avoiding strenuous for about two weeks after surgery. Topical or oral antibiotics may also be prescribed to prevent wound infection.
It is essential to keep all follow-up appointments with Dr. Weston after skin cancer surgery and continue to have regular skin cancer screenings to ensure cancer does not return.