Skin Cancer Surgery

This procedure is performed at Body Recon, St John Of God Hospital, Epworth Hospital and Skin Cancer PLUS, Roslyn Road

ABOUT SKIN CANCER SURGERY

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world and we are four times more likely to develop a skin cancer than any other type of cancer. It occurs when skin cells are damaged, most commonly by exposure to UV rays from the sun or sunbeds. Approximately 2 out of 3 Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer before the age of 70 and over 2000 Australians died from skin cancer in 2011.

Evidence suggests that the effects of UV exposure are cumulative, meaning that the risk of developing skin cancers increases with age. Having said that, melanomas and BCCs can be seen in people under 20 years of age.

Any new or changing lesion, lump or sore which has not gone away after a few weeks should be examined by an experienced doctor and a sample (biopsy) taken, if necessary, to confirm the diagnosis. Your general practitioner can do this for you and they should be your first point of contact.

SKIN CANCER SURGERY

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Very superficial (thin) BCCs and SCCs can sometimes be treated non-surgically. Creams such as Aldara and Efudix, which are chemotherapy agents, can be effective. Other methods include freezing with liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy) or burning the lesions off with a chemical peel such as 35% TCA.

Surgery can be simple or more complicated. The simplest surgical method is called a curette excision- this involves scraping the cancer off and letting the wound heal. Alternatively the cancer can be excised (cut out) and the defect closed with stitches, or where the lesion is large, by using techniques such as skin grafting or skin flaps. Occasionally for very large cancers of the head and neck Dr Rahdon performs complex reconstructive techniques such as free tissue transfer.

Melanomas require a larger margin of normal tissue to be removed from around them compared to SCCs and BCCs. Therefore in most cases the surgery is more complex for melanomas and more likely to involve skin flaps or grafts for closure.

Advanced cancers may require radiotherapy and/ or chemotherapy in addition to surgery. Where appropriate Dr Rahdon will refer patients needing these additional treatments on to appropriate specialists. There may also be a need for body imaging to be performed, such as a CT or PET scan, which are available in Geelong.

There are several ways in which a doctor can diagnose skin cancer- although a biopsy may be required for confirm the diagnosis. We recommend annual skin checks at our Skin Cancer PLUS clinic in Belmont where our GPs are able to track any changes to your skin with our digital FotoFinder photography equipment.

At Body Recon we are able to offer a dedicated skin cancer service at our Skin Cancer PLUS facility in Belmont. This includes skin checks using our Fotofinder machine which offers the latest in digital surveillance technology as well as skin cancer treatment options with our GPs who are able to make quick referrals to our Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons if required for more complex procedures

Fairer skin types are more at risk and if your parents have multiple skin cancers from UV exposure it may follow that you will too. There are also a number of rare genetic disorders (eg Gorlin’s syndrome) that have high rates of skin cancer.

It depends on the severity and location of the lesion. Most often a straightforward skin cancer excision can be performed in our Skin Cancer PLUS facility by one of our GPs or in our Body Recon rooms at either St John of God or Epworth Hospitals. This is often done if the patient does not have private health insurance. More complex procedures may be best done in a hospital setting though in most cases can be performed as day surgery. This will be discussed at the time of your consultation.

It depends on the type of lesion and the proposed treatment. We always recommend that our patients consider private health insurance.

Patients will usually be reviewed following surgical skin cancer removal to check wound healing and discuss pathology. Our GPs at Skin Cancer PLUS will recommend frequency of review and digital imaging based on your skin type and history of sun exposure and previous skin cancers. Melanomas usually require surveillance every four months for three years.

Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.

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