There are three main types of skin cancer
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) affects the lowest layer of the epidermis. This is the most common skin cancer and the least dangerous. BCCs present on sun-exposed areas of the skin. They can cause significant destruction and disfigurement by invading surrounding tissues and are considered to be a malignant disease. BCCs are treated with surgery, but in some cases can also be treated with radiation. Very superficial BCCs can be treated with creams (such as Efudix or Aldara), peels and freezing (cryotherapy).
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) originate from epithelial cells (the middle layer), these are less common but can spread and can be fatal. The rate of metastasis is quite low in most cases; however thick tumors and those with certain adverse microscopic features are more likely to spread. SCCs are treated with surgery, but can also be treated with radiation. Very superficial SCCs can be treated with creams (such as Efudix or Aldara), peels and freezing (cryotherapy). Because of the potential for spread in advanced cases there may be a need for further investigation such as a CT or PET scan. If spread is detected then there may be a need for further therapy, such as surgical removal of nearby lymph glands, radiotherapy and/ or chaemotherapy.
Melanoma, which originates in the pigment-producing cells (melanocytes), can be an aggressive skin cancer. It is likely to spread if untreated and can be fatal. Very thin melanomas (in-situ melanoma) can’t spread, and wide surgical excision is sufficient treatment. Thicker or invasive melanomas are more serious and require a combination of surgical and other treatments such as chaemotherapy and/or radiotherapy. The chaemotherapy treatment options are rapidly developing, especially in the field of immunotherapy and new treatments are becoming available all the time.
Other rare skin cancers. There are a number of other much rarer skin cancers which can be aggressive such as Merkel Cell Carcinoma, Microcystic Adnexal Carcinoma, sarcomas, lymphomas and other types.
Any suspicious lesion that you have noticed changing should be checked immediately by a qualified GP. The GP will determine if the lesion should be biopsied (sent for testing) and if further treatment is required.
Things to look out for when checking your own moles are asymmetry, border irregularities, colour variation, diameter increases, evolution, ie ABCDE.
Also of concern is any skin lesion that fails to heal or repeatedly bleeds and scabs.
At Skin Cancer PLUS, you will first be seen by one of our GPs who will perform a full body skin check and Total Body Mapping which takes images of all of your lesions and moles. These are assessed using a dermatoscope along with a computer analysis as well as the professional opinion of our GP’s expertly trained eyes. Any lesion that looks suspicious is then biopsied to confirm diagnosis. If the pathology returns a positive diagnosis for skin cancer, a further surgical excision will be required in most cases. This may be performed either by the GP or one of our plastic and reconstructive surgeons depending on the location, size and complexity of the lesion involved.
Not all surgery requires admission to hospital, we have a fully equipped procedure room at both our Skin Cancer PLUS rooms in Belmont and at Body Recon Clinic Epworth. Private patients may choose to be treated by one of our plastic surgeons at Epworth Hospital. Factors that would be considered in making this decision would be the size and location of the cancer and the age and health of the patient. If general anesthesia or sedation is required then the procedure will be performed in a hospital.
Following your procedure a routine post operative appointment will be made. Ongoing surveillance and monitoring of your skin is recommended, as a history of skin cancer is a risk factor for developing more. Melanoma surveillance is recommended every three months for up to four years.
AM I AT RISK?
- Are you a light skin type that reacts sensitively to sunlight
- Do you have a particularly large number of moles?
- Do you have large congenital moles?
- Do you have atypical moles or moles that have recently changed?
- Did you get sunburnt as a child or adolescent?
- Is there a history of skin cancer in your family?
- Do you already have skin cancer?
- Are you exposed to strong sunlight at regular intervals?
- Have you ever used a solarium?
Pay Particular Caution to the following:
- Newly developed moles
- Changes in colour
- Increase or decrease of size or thickness or height of raised moles
- Changes with the surrounding area of the moles, e.g. redness, white discolouration, swelling.
- Unusual sensations e.g. itchiness, burning, foreign body sensation
- Bleeding moles
Australians are more likely to develop skin cancer than any other type of cancer. Cells become damaged by exposure to UV rays from the sun or sunbeds. 2 out of 3 Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer before the age of 70.