Skin cancer is by far the most common type of cancer with over 3 million new cases in the US each year. 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70. Excess ultraviolet radiation exposure from too much sun or even the use of tanning beds is the biggest risk factor. Arizonans are at particular risk due to year round exposure to the sun in a temperate climate. The most common types of skin cancer include Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Malignant Melanoma. 99% of all cases are curable if diagnosed early. Detection is possible, because unlike other cancers that develop inside our bodies, this can be seen and detected on the skin. It can be formidable and hide in the creases of skin, areas we don't look at (like our backs) or even in the hairline. Early detection is often seen by your Primary care doctor or a Dermatologist.
Several detection methods are endorsed. Self-exams or regular annual exams by a Dermatologist are recommended. There are 3 categories of concerning skin lesions or moles. 1. New moles 2. Changing moles 3. Moles that behave unusual. This can include, moles growing, having irregular borders, color variation, shape variation, change of texture, itching, bleeding, or crusting for a prolonged time (more than 3 weeks). These lesions should be examined and may require a biopsy for diagnosis. Typically, this is performed by your primary care or dermatologist. If you have been diagnosed with skin cancer, early treatment has a high rate of cure. What is the next step?
If you have a new diagnosis, your dermatologist or primary care will likely recommend this be excised and treated. Treatment often includes excision but may have other additional (adjunctive) treatments. This may include biopsy of a lymph node, imaging scans, or even radiation therapy and chemotherapy. This can be very scary and requires a surgeon to guide you through the treatments. The dermatologist may recommend a Mohs' micrographic surgeon for removal. This excision method is done piecemeal and allows the dermatologist to examine each section of cancer until it is all removed. In the case of melanoma, this is not an option. A wide local excision with optional lymph node sampling is performed. This is typically performed by a surgeon. Dr. Kelsch specializes in the removal and reconstruction of skin cancer of the Head and Neck. During your consultation he will review your pathology and any additional studies that have been performed and develop and tailored treatment plan to your specific cancer type and location.
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