Skin cancers are common problems for people who have had significant sun exposure, sun burns, have a fair complexion, or who have lived an outdoor life either working or during their leisure time. Skin cancers commonly exist on body regions that have been exposed to sunlight, such as:
Skin cancers can also occur on areas that have seen little sun. There is often a familial pattern to skin cancer but the genetics are poorly understood currently.
Skin cancers are most often treated by surgery and then examined in the laboratory to ensure that the lesion has been completely removed before it has the chance to spread elsewhere in the body. In the majority of situations once the lesion has been shown to be completely removed then no further treatment is required. Depending on the diagnosis it maybe recommended for the patient to follow up with their family GP or a Dermatologist to undergo regular surveillance skin checks or even mole mapping.
There are infrequent cases when a skin cancer can spread to lymph nodes (located in the neck, groin and arm pit) or to distant organs such as the lungs, liver or brain. In these situations then a multidisciplinary team approach is recommended to discuss further treatment that can involve more surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy.
Common skin cancers include basal cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas and melanomas. There are also a number of other less common skin cancers.
It is recommended that you have a referral from your family GP or Dermatologist as they need to be part of the management plan. Once the referral is received it will be triaged for urgency and then you will be contacted by the office staff to arrange an appointment. Depending on the type of lesion, the location and your general health then you will either be offered an appointment to review the lesion or alternatively given an appointment to review plus excise the lesion under local anaesthesia. The majority of skin cancer lesions are suitable for excision following injections of local anaesthesia. If a lesion is unsuitable for local anaesthesia excision then arrangements will be made for admission to hospital for excision under general anaesthesia.
Following skin cancer surgery you may experience some swelling and bruising. Discomfort is usually mild and readily controlled by elevating the operated site, minimal exertion and having pain relief medication available, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. You will be provided with post-operative instructions which include wound care advice, typically the day after surgery you will be able to shower and get the surgical site wet. A follow-up appointment will be provided to check the wound, remove sutures, review the laboratory report and provide scar management advice. Following every skin cancer excision there will always be a permanent scar, however the scars tend to mature well with time and following the advice provided. It is unusual to have a poorly cosmetic scar or have wound healing issues such as wound separation or infection. Every effort is made to keep your appearance as natural as possible but it is important that skin cancer patients accept that the most important factor is that their skin cancer is excised completely.