Skin cancers are very common in Australia; however, early diagnosis and treatment enhance good outcomes.
There are three main groups of skin cancers:
- Basal cell carcinomas (BCCs);
- Squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs); and
In each of these groups there are both good and bad sub-types.
Basal cell carcinomas are the most common, especially in the head and neck area. They are slow growing and tend not to spread around the body. BCCs are locally destructive and can spread along nerves or tissue planes, particularly around the eyes, ears and nose.
Squamous cell carcinomas are also common and may spread around the body via lymphatic channels or blood vessels. They also spread to lymph nodes. SCCs are particularly common on the limbs.
Melanomas are the most aggressive and serious of skin cancers. They may arise in pre-existing moles or previously normal skin. Melanomas are usually coloured. They may however be pink or reddish without any obvious colour and be flat or elevated.
Having had any skin cancer increases the subsequent risk of skin cancers developing, and regular and repeated checks and screenings are essential. Skin spots are assessed with a simple summary.
|A – Asymmetry||Irregular skin spots are a concern|
|B – Border||Irregular edges are a concern|
|C – Colour||Very dark or speckled colours are a concern|
|D – Diameter||Greater than or equal to 6mm is a concern|
|E – Elevation||Raised lesions are a concern|
|T – Time||Change or rate of change|
This is only a guide. Any spot of concern or any spot that changes should be checked. Mole hair growth, though often unappealing, is usually not of great concern but should be checked..
When skin cancers are surgically removed it is necessary to remove a margin of normal tissue to ensure clearance. The size of this margin or cuff can vary from 2mm to 3cm according to the type of skin cancer. This is added on to either side of the spot which means the amount of tissue removed is much larger than the original spot.
The incisions can be repaired or closed using a number of techniques including:
- Primary closure, which involves stitching up in a straight line;
- Skin grafts may be required, in which skin is moved from one part of the body to another; and
- Flap surgery, which involves moving tissue that keeps its own blood supply.
At the time of consultation Dr Kippen will give a far more comprehensive explanation of your skin cancer and the surgery required. He will detail the techniques and outcomes. Brochures and information sheets are also used, as well as before and after photographs. It is vitally important never to delay getting your skin spots checked.
You should read the information presented here in conjunction with the information contained on the Frequently Asked Questions page of the website.