As many as one in five people will develop a form of skin cancer in their life. Dr Spengane offers screening, diagnosis and treatment of various kinds of skin cancer. Since the key to successful treatment of skin cancer is an early diagnosis, Dr Spengane emphasises the need for regular screenings and mole mapping, particularly for those who are at high risk of developing skin cancers.
- Moles – these are pigmented lesions on the skin. Most of them are not harmful but if you notice any change in symptoms or appearance visit your dermatologist for a consultation.
WHAT CAUSES SKIN CANCER?
Normal skin cells grow, divide, die and are replaced in a controlled way in most cases, however, when they mutate, they can become cancerous cells. Skin cancer tends to develop slowly and can go unnoticed. Those who have fair skin are more at risk for developing skin cancer and should limit their exposure to the sun at times of high ultraviolet (UV) index.
Skin cancer screening
The best way to detect skin cancer early is with routine self-examinations and check-ups with your dermatologist. Dr Spengane suggests that patients examine their skin often and schedule an appointment if they spot anything concerning on their skin. While a mirror may help with self-examinations, Dr Spengane advises an annual visit for her to do a thorough check with dermoscopy and take a biopsy of anything suspicious.
COMMON TYPES OF SKIN CANCER
The skin's top layer is called the epidermis, and it consists of three types of cells: the squamous cells, the basal cells and the melanocytes. Mutations can occur in either of these cells and are then known as squamous cell carcinomas, basal cell carcinomas and melanomas.
- Basal Cell Carcinoma – this is the most common type of skin cancer, usually occurring in sun-exposed areas. These types of cancers look like flesh-coloured, pearl-like bumps or pink patches on the skin.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma – this is the second most common type of skin cancer. Squamous cell cancers also appear in areas that have had sun-exposure but will look like a firm red bump, a sore that heals and re-opens or a scaly patch on the skin.
- Melanoma – this is a rare type of skin cancer, but also the most dangerous. In cases where a mole is noticed that seems to change, it is essential to have the spot checked by your dermatologist.
DANGER SIGNS of Melanoma
- Asymmetry - size, shape, color, thickness
- Border - poorly defined, irregular edges
- Color - more than 2 colors
- Diameter > 6mm
- Evolving - enlarging/changing
- Funny looking – an ugly duckling or family history of melanoma
Depending on the type, severity and size of the skin cancer, Dr Spengane may treat the cancers with curettage and electrodesiccation, cryotherapy, surgical excision or refer for wide local excision by a plastic surgeon.