In its advanced stages, skin cancer can be disfiguring and even life threatening. Since skin cancer is typically noticeable on the surface of the skin, however, early detection is the best way to diagnose and improve chances of a successful outcome. Patients often visit the Dermatology Office of Dr. Ellen Turner for concerns relating to skin cancer. The Dallas-area dermatologist works not only to address their concerns and provide treatment where possible, but to educate the general public on skin cancer awareness, prevention, and options.
Skin cancer results from the abnormal growth of malignant cells. There are many factors that contribute to this growth, but these cancers typically form on skin that has been routinely exposed to natural or artificial sunlight. There are several types of skin cancers, including fast-moving melanoma, as well as more common non-melanoma skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
Dermatologists recommend making yourself aware of what to look out for in terms of possible cancer signs and performing monthly self-exams. You should also undergo professional skin cancer screenings with a board-certified dermatologist at least once a year (or perhaps more often, if you have high risk factors for the disease).
During your regular self-checks, take note of any unusual changes—especially to moles—and make your dermatologist aware of them. Ask your dermatologist plenty of questions to make yourself better informed on the details of the disease. If skin cancer is suspected, your dermatologist may take a biopsy in order to confirm the diagnosis.
Some of the most commonly used techniques for treating skin cancer include surgical excision, Mohs surgery, electrodessication and curettage (ED&C), topical creams, and radiation. The type, stage, size, and location of the cancer, as well as the patient’s general state of health, will influence the treatment strategy.
Two of the more recent developments in skin cancer treatment are Mohs surgery and Superficial Radiation Therapy (SRT).
Using Mohs surgery (Mohs micrographic surgery), a specially trained dermatologist first cleans the surgical site, then outlines the area for examination with a special pen and provides a local anaesthetic to numb the area. The patient can remain awake during the procedure. The dermatologist then removes samples from the targeted area one thin layer at a time, with each sample meticulously examined under a microscope. If signs of cancer are present, another sample is taken. This continues until no malignant cells are observed in any of the samples from the lesion’s borders. This method minimizes the risk of cancer being left behind and spreading. The wound is then repaired and closed.
Mohs surgery has a 99 percent cure rate for skin cancer that has not previously been treated.
Though the visible signs of a procedure are minimal with Mohs, SRT leaves no scars at all behind, since it involves no incisions or excisions. This treatment—which offers the same cure rate as Mohs surgery—involves the application of very low doses of radiation to the specific area where cancer cells are found. The radiation is also delivered into a small margin of tissue around the abnormal cells.
Many patients are drawn to the newer technology driving SRT, given that it is highly effective at both killing cancer cells and minimizing cosmetic side effects. SRT destroys non-melanoma skin cancer cells and tumor cells that form keloids, which are raised scars.
Superficial radiation therapy is ideal for areas where skin is particularly thin and for especially sensitive areas. This includes noses, ears, eyelids, and the shin area on the front of the legs.
With two offices—in Dallas and Irving—The Dermatology Office of Dr. Ellen Turner provides SRT treatments and a full range of personalized medical and cosmetic services to patients in the area and beyond. Get more skin cancer tips by calling (214) 373-7546 or sending a message online.