Treating Skin Cancer

Treatment for skin cancer will depend on a number of factors:

  • Type of skin cancer
  • Size
  • Location of the skin cancer
  • Whether the skin cancer has spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body.

Treatment options can include:

Excision

Surgical removal of the tumour and surrounding tissue.

Curettage

Scraping and burning.

Cryotherapy

Freezing with liquid nitrogen.

Radiotherapy

Using high energy rays such as X-rays to destroy cancer cells within a specific area.

MOHS

Highly specialised surgery where the cancer (generally non melanoma skin cancer only) is removed little by little and checked under the microscope immediately.

Photodynamic Therapy

Using a light source and special cream to destroy cancer cells.

Imiquimod

A cream that destroys skin cancer by stimulating the body’s immune system to fight the cancer. Imiquimod is in a class of medications called immune response modifiers.

Chemotherapy

Treatment with drugs, either pills or injections. It may be used to treat melanoma that has spread to other parts of the body.

 

After treatment you may need regular check-ups with your GP or specialist for early detection of any new skin cancers. If you notice any spots you are worried about between follow-up appointments, it’s important to speak with your GP or specialist as soon as possible.

It is very important to protect your skin. Wear SPF30+ sunscreen (at least) with UVA and UVB filters, hat and appropriate clothing when in the sun.

 

Moles: When to See the Doctor

When noticing a new mole, a simple check can help you figure out if it’s worth a visit to the dermatologist. Of course, the two rules below are just guides and moles should be checked by a doctor if they are unusual in anyway.

The ABCD Rule

Melanoma can have any of the following symptoms.

Asymmetry

The shape of one half does not match the other.

Border

The edges are often ragged, notched, blurred, or irregular in outline; the pigment may spread into the surrounding skin.

Colour

Colour is uneven. Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, grey, red, pink, or blue also may be seen.

Diameter

Size changes and usually increases. Typically, melanomas are at least 6mm in diameter (the diameter of a pencil).

EFG Rule

There is a class of rapidly growing, nodular melanoma, which represent about 20% of all cases. This type of melanoma doesn’t subscribe to the traditional ABCD rule. This means it can often go undetected. Fortunately, they can be identified early using the E.F.G. rule.

 

Nodular melanoma usually have all three of the below criteria:

Elevated

Firm

Growing

The moles don’t need to be dark or have any other colour to them, but the key is that they’re raised, firm, often symmetrical and most importantly changing/growing progressively. In the early stages, this might not be visible – it may just be itchy, or just feels funny. This type of melanoma can affect anyone but most commonly found on men over 50. Nodular melanoma grows fast and can go deep very quickly (within a few months). This is why they’re so dangerous and need early diagnosis and removal.

 

Melanoma does not always fit the ABCD orEFG rules. If you notice a lesion that is:

  • Different from others
  • Changing in shape, size or colour
  • New
  • Itches
  • Bleeds

Give us at Malvern Dermatology Clinic a call or email.

 

 

5 Most Frequently Asked Questions of a Dermatologist

What’s your skin care secret?

This would have to be one of the most common questions asked of a dermatologist. The answer is simple – sun protection.

Why? Well, sun damage is responsible for over 80% of the signs associated with aging. Wrinkles, sagging skin, redness, patchy pigmentation, yellowing and coarsening of the skin. Sun protection is the essential part of a dermatologist’s skin care routine.

 

If I’m not getting sunburn, do I need sunscreen?

Yes. Studies show that even when sunlight is not strong enough to cause sunburn, it is can still cause permanent skin damage. This can quicken the signs of aging mentioned above. Hats, clothing and a broad spectrum sunscreen that blocks UVA, UVB and infrared are year round essentials.

 

Does my moisturiser slow the signs of aging?

No. Moisturisers stop water evaporating from the skin and relieve dryness. They help to protect the skin from irritation. Well-hydrated skin looks more radiant and fresh and small lines may look less visible. A moisturiser is not an ‘anti-aging’ miracle.

What moisturiser you use should be determined by the way if feels on your skin. If it’s too greasy, it may sit on the surface and get wiped off from clothing. If it’s too watery, the hydrating effect may be so short-lived that you feel as though you need to use more a few minutes later. Ideally your moisturiser should be absorbed into the skin, making it feel soft and fresh.

The cost of the moisturiser is not a reflection of quality. Neutrogena, Ego Pharmaceuticals and Nivea are just three companies that have been making relatively inexpensive quality moisturisers for decades and they have lasted in a highly competitive market.

 

I thought my moisturiser has SPF?

When moisturisers include sunscreen, the sun protection is short-lived. Real sunscreens have to state how long their protection lasts and whether it will be affected by water or sweating. If you want to get serious about skin care, stock up on a dedicated sunscreen.

 

What’s new in skin care?

We are starting to understand how sunlight damages skin cells, skin cancer and ageing. Anti-oxidants can help to minimise damage and help the repair process. Retinoic acid (derived from vitamin A) is a powerful antioxidant that is effective in cream form. While Vitamin C is an excellent antioxidant, it is unstable in creams and when exposed to air.
Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) can help skin repair and reduce the uneven pigmentation of facial skin.
The pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies are aware of the research and are incorporating anti-oxidants and niacinamide into sunscreens and cosmetics. But more on this next time…

 

Have your own question for Jill? Leave a comment.

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