Skin Cancer Surgery in Worcester, MA
Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in the United States. Early screening and detection of skin cancer is crucial to successful treatment. Cancer screening and therapeutic treatments are available at Salisbury Plastic Surgery, led by board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Deborah K. Ekstrom, for residents of Worcester, Shrewsbury, and neighboring areas in Massachusetts, who suspect they may be at risk for skin cancer.
What is Skin Cancer?
Cancer typically presents as an uncontrolled cluster or growth composed of abnormal skin cells. These diseased cells begin to grow when triggered by unrepaired DNA damage. DNA damage often results as a consequence of long term exposure to excessive sunlight. Although skin cancer is dangerous, fortunately it can be easily detected and can be treated successfully with early diagnosis.
Who is At Risk for Skin Cancer?
Certain individuals are more susceptible to developing skin cancer than others, with those at greatest risk presenting one or more of the following factors:
- Frequent use of tanning booths or sun lamps
- A history of repeated serious sunburn
- Excessive sun exposure as children
- Family history of skin cancer
- Frequent excessive exposure to sunlight
- A large number of birthmarks, freckles or moles
- Tend to sunburn easily
- Individuals with light colored, green or blue eyes
- Blondes or redheads with fair skin
Symptoms of Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is the most widely diagnosed form of cancer, but luckily it is also the most easily diagnosed and treated with an extremely high success rate. Using the ABCDE guidelines, you can examine any unusual growths on the skin to detect potential skin cancer and treat it as early as possible. The ABCDE guidelines help you determine whether a growth on the skin may be dangerous, as follows:
- A The two sides of the mole are not identical.
- B The border appears to be jagged or blurry.
- C The color has changed, or a lesion consists of more than one color.
- D The lesion exceeds a quarter of an inch all the way across (in diameter).
- E The lesion is changing.
If you have any moles that exhibit the ABCDE charateristics, watch them closely for changes because they can become malignant. Make sure to also check for the appearance of new moles. The majority of moles in human beings will develop before the age of 30, so if you notice new moles developing after this age, you should be screened for skin cancer.
Types Of Skin Cancer
There are multiple types of skin cancer an each type is named for the affected cells that become malignant in the disease.
1) Basal cell carcinoma usually develops on areas of the body that have received the largest amount of sun exposure, such as the face, ears and scalp. Basal cell skin cancer starts growing inside the basal cell layer of a person’s skin, and most commonly affects individuals who have fair skin. Common warning signs include:
- A growth that is flat or sunken
- A growth or area that bleeds easily
- A scar that develops a waxy feel to it
- A sore that repeatedly keeps appearing on the skin
- A cluster of shiny red or pink growths that grow very slowly
- A pimple that never heals
- A pearl-shaped, flesh-colored lump on the skin
- Reddish dry skin or a patch that never seems to go away
2) Squamous Cell Carcinoma develops within the squamous cells of the skin and commonly appears on visible areas, but it may also appear on less exposed areas of the body, such as the mouth. Squamous cell carcinoma may also develop on areas of the body after severe burns or exposure to hazardous chemicals. Some of the symptoms to look for include:
- A scaly patch that forms on the lip
- An open sore that bleeds, itches, heals and keeps coming back
- A crusty or scaly reddish patch, bump or growth
3) Melanoma poses the greatest risk among skin cancers, but may be treated successfully with early detection. If left untreated, melanoma may spread to other parts of the body becoming life threatening. Some common signs to watch for include:
- A black or brown streak located underneath a toenail or fingernail
- A new irregular flat dark spot that has formed on the skin
- A mole that bleeds, oozes or looks scaly
- A mole that doesn’t stop growing and changes color or shape
- A red indistinct bump
How Is Skin Cancer Treated?
Early detection of any type of cancer is key to successful treatment. If detected early enough, all types of skin cancer are easily treatable with great success. The precise treatment naturally depends on which type of skin cancer one is affected by.
- Basal Cell Carcinoma may be treated by several different methods, depending on the location and type. Surgical excision is commonly used to remove cancerous tissue, and Mohs surgery is used to remove growths on the face, scalp and ear. This procedure involves shaving off layers of skin gradually until all of the cancer is effectively removed. Treatment may also include medications, topical creams, and freezing procedures.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma is treated with a surgical procedure to remove the growth, and early detection is critical to the success of this treatment. Many of the same procedures used to remove basal cell carcinoma may be used to remove this type of cancer as well, including Mohs surgery as well as topical medications. Advanced cases of squamous cell carcinoma may be treated with photodynamic or laser therapy, and in some rare cases, radiation therapy may be used.
- Melanoma skin cancer is always removed through surgery and again, early detection is crucial. In advanced cases of melanoma, targeted chemotherapy may be used in combination with surgery, and in some cases, removal of lymph nodes may be required.
What Should I Do If I See a Suspicious Growth on My Skin?
If you notice any growth on your skin that responds to the ABCDE guidelines, contact our office immediately to begin the screening process, obtain a biopsy, and determine if cancer is present. The biopsy will also identify the exact type of cancer, and with this information, Dr. Ekstrom can determine the most appropriate treatment for you.
What Is The Cost of Skin Cancer Treatments in Worcester?
The cost of skin cancer treatment will vary, depending on which type of cancer a patient has and the determined treatment course. Fortunately in many situations health insurance may cover part or all of the cost of cancer treatment.
If you suspect you may have skin cancer, early screening and treatment is essential. Comprehensive screening and treatment for skin cancer are provided at Salisbury Plastic Surgery, led by board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Deborah K. Ekstrom, for residents of Worcester, Shrewsbury, and neighboring areas in Massachusetts. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.