Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. While skin cancers can be found on any part of the body, about 80 percent appear on the face, head, or neck, where they can be disfiguring as well as dangerous. Skin cancer removal, performed by plastic surgeon Beth Collins MD in Guilford, can help to treat and remove many types of these cancers.
Who Should Get Skin Cancer Surgery?
By far the most common type of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma. Though basal cell carcinoma is seldom life-threatening, if left untreated it can grow deep beneath the skin and into the underlying tissue and bone, causing serious damage (particularly if it’s located near the eye).
Squamous cell carcinoma is the next most common kind of skin cancer, frequently appearing on the lips, face, or ears. It sometimes spreads to distant sites, including lymph nodes and internal organs. Squamous cell carcinoma can become life-threatening if it’s not treated.
A third form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma, is the least common, but its incidence is increasing rapidly. Malignant melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. If discovered early enough, it can be completely cured. If it’s not treated quickly, however, malignant melanoma may spread throughout the body and is often deadly.
What Does Skin Cancer Surgery Do?
Skin cancer is diagnosed by removing all or part of the growth and examining its cells under a microscope. It can be treated by a number of methods, depending on the type of cancer, its stage of growth, and its location on your body.
Most skin cancers are removed surgically, by a plastic surgeon. If the cancer is small, the procedure can be done quickly and easily, in an outpatient facility or the physician’s office, using local anesthesia. The procedure may be a simple excision, which usually leaves a thin, barely visible scar. If the cancer is larger, or in a cosmetically challenging area, a reconstructive flap may be needed to minimize scarring and deformity. These techniques are best performed by a plastic surgeon who is familiar and comfortable with the techniques. Dr. Collins has extensive experience with this type of surgery, performing hundreds of reconstructive operations each year.
After Skin Cancer Surgery: What Should I Expect?
The different techniques used in treating skin cancers can be life saving, but they may leave a patient with less than pleasing cosmetic or functional results. Depending on the location and severity of the cancer, the consequences may range from a small but unsightly scar to permanent changes in facial structures such as your nose, ear, or lip.
After you’ve been treated for skin cancer, your doctor should schedule regular follow-up visits to make sure the cancer hasn’t recurred.
You should also:
- Avoid prolonged exposure to the sun.
- On any exposed skin, use a sunscreen with an SPF.
- Finally, examine your skin regularly. If you find anything suspicious, consult your plastic surgeon as soon as possible.
Related Procedures and Skin Cancer Surgery Alternatives
Other possible treatments for skin cancer include cryosurgery (freezing the cancer cells), radiation therapy (using x-rays), topical chemotherapy (anti-cancer drugs applied to the skin), and Mohs surgery, a special procedure in which the cancer is shaved off one layer at a time. (Mohs surgery is performed only by specially trained physicians and often requires a reconstructive procedure as follow-up.)
To learn more about skin cancer surgery performed by New haven County plastic surgeon Beth Collins MD, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with her in her Guilford practice. Use our online contact form to send an email or call us at 203-689-5295.