Skin Exams

Skin Cancers

There are three major forms of skin cancer that dermatologist evaluate, diagnose and treat on a daily basis.  Ultraviolet radiation in the form of sun-exposure is the most common causative factor.  Unfortunately, the prevalence of these cancers continues to increase.

What is a Basal Cell Carcinoma?

Basal cell carcinomas are the most common skin cancers.  The lesions typically present as small, flesh-colored to pearly, papules or nodules.   Overlying or surrounding blood vessels commonly occur.  On occasion, these lesions may contain significant brown pigment.  Most basal cell carcinomas present on sun-exposed areas of the head, face, neck and trunk.  Fair-skinned person with light-colored eyes, hair and skin are at greatest risk of developing these cancers.  Basal cell carcinomas are slow-growing and rarely metastasize (spread to other parts of the body).  However, if untreated, they can bleed, enlarge, produce considerable pain and spread to the bone and other deeper tissues.

What is a Squamous Cell Carcinoma?

Squamous cell carcinomas are the second most common skin cancer.  The lesions typically present as red, scaly, painful, plaques or nodules.  Actinic keratoses are pre-malignant versions of squamous cell carcinomas.  Most squamous cell carcinomas present on sun-exposed areas of the scalp, face, ears, lips and hands.  Fair-skinned person with light-colored eyes, hair and skin are at greatest risk of developing these cancers.  Farmers, construction workers, burn victims, immunosuppressed individuals, and persons who spend an inordinate amount of time outdoors are especially affected by squamous cell carcinomas.  Unlike basal cell carcinomas, these cancers can metastasize.

What is a Malignant Melanoma?

Malignant melanoma is by far the most ominous and deadliest form of skin cancer.  The American Cancer Society projects over 76,000 new cases of melanoma for 2012.  Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in men and the sixth most common cancer in women.  The vast majority of malignant melanomas are diagnosed in white patients.  The survival rates for melanoma depend on the stage at diagnosis.  Malignant melanomas begin in melanocytes, the skin cells that produce the dark, protective pigment called melanin.  Most melanomas have brown to black pigment, but at times can present as non-pigmented red or pink nodules.  Melanomas may arise within an existing mole or occur suddenly without warning.  Excessive sun exposure, especially sunburns, is the most important preventable cause of melanoma.  Fair-skinned persons are particularly at risk.  Heredity plays a significant role since a family history of melanoma increases a person’s risk of developing melanoma.  Patients with a high number of atypical moles are also at increased risk.  Dark-skinned people may also develop melanoma, especially on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet.

Skin Cancer Treatment

The most effective method of treating skin cancers is by surgical excision.  Surgery allows physicians to surgically remove the skin cancers while preserving the most normal skin. Frozen sections are taken, evaluated and tested to insure clear cell margins for the patient.  This technique also provides the highest cure rate.  Electrodessication and curettage is another very common method of treating basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas.  This technique involves scraping the cancer away with a sharp instrument called a curette and burning the base of the treated area with an electrodessicater.
Aldara (an immune modulating cream) and 5-fu (a topical chemotherapy agent) are topical therapies that are used for treating superficial basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas.  Aldara has also been used for certain shallow melanomas.  The topical therapies are less effective at clearing the cancers that the surgical options.  Invasive melanomas typically require intervention by other specialist such as surgical and medical oncologists.
SRT100: Patients also have the option of having non-surgical procedures done for their non-melanoma skin cancers. By delivering a precise, calibrated dose of superficial radiation therapy that only goes skin deep, patients can be safely treated right in their physician’s office. Each treatment takes only a few minutes and is virtually painless.
Low-dose radiation effectively destroys basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, as well as the non-malignant tumor that cause keloids. Best of all, it doesn’t involve cutting, bleeding or stitching. With the SRT-100™, there is no need for anesthesia, no risk of infection or scarring, no need for reconstructive plastic surgery. Patients heal quickly and don’t have downtime or lifestyle restrictions following treatment.
Sensus Healthcare’s SRT-100™ has been cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of non-melanoma skin cancer and keloids.
Sun avoidance is the best defense against skin cancer.  Patients should wear at least an SPF 30 sunscreen, wear light-colored clothing and hats, and avoid excessive sun-exposure between the hours of 10:00 am and 4:00 pm, when the ultraviolet rays are the most intense.  Early detection ensures the highest cure rates.  Patients should perform routine skin exams and seek the professional advice of a dermatologist for any suspicious moles or lesions.  Fair-skinned, light eyed individuals should consider having an annual full body skin exam y their dermatologist.  We look forward to sharing our expertise and determining to best treatment option for you.