Skin Cancer Surgery
Skin cancer is unfortunately prolific in sunny coastal towns like Newcastle, yet often quite treatable if noticed early. Skin cancer excision is the most common procedure that we perform at Avery. We operate on patients of any age, with any type of skin cancer, on any part of the body.
Dr Avery has more than a decade of experience in plastic surgery and is highly skilled in all skin cancer excisions and reconstructive surgery techniques, including skin grafts and flap repairs.
There are three main types of skin cancer:
- Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)
- Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
BCC and SCC are commonly referred to as non-melanomaskin cancers.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
The least dangerous and most common type of skin cancer, BCC grows slowly and rarely spreads. If left untreated however, it can extend deep below the skin causing serious damage to the underlying tissue and bone.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
The second most common type of skin cancer, SCC grows faster than BCC and can develop in a matter of weeks or months. SSC has the potential to spread to other parts of the body and become life threatening if left untreated.
Australia and New Zealand have the world’s highest incidence rate for melanoma. The most dangerous form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma is capable of spreading throughout the body via the lymphatic system. The effects of melanoma can escalate quickly, often becoming life threatening if not treated early.
Causes of Skin Cancer
The majority of skin cancers in Australia are caused by overexposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun and other sources such as solariums. Skin cells often become damaged and cancerous through exposure to strong or consistent UV radiation.
UV radiation is most damaging for skin when it reaches a moderate UV Index level of 3 or higher. High UV Index levels can occur even on cold, cloudy days and usually reach their peak between 10am and 3pm.
People with pale skin have less of the pigment melanin, which can to protect the skin by blocking out some UV rays up to a point. This is why people with darker skin are less likely to get sunburned than those with light skin. Regardless of skin tone or ethnicity, all skin cells can potentially be damaged by the sun and become cancerous.
95% of melanomas are caused by sunburn, yet even when there are no visible signs of burning, skin cells can still be damaged. Sun tanning and the use of solariums expose the skin to dangerous levels of UV radiation and greatly increase your risk of developing skin cancer.
Signs & Symptoms of Skin Cancer
If your skin is prone to freckles and moles, it can be difficult to tell the difference between an ordinary spot and skin cancer. The first 5 letters of the alphabet can serve as a helpful guide when looking for signs of an abnormal mole:
Regular moles are often symmetrical and round, while skin cancers can be irregular in shape.
Melanoma can often have an uneven, jagged border surrounding it. The borders of non-melanoma cancers and regular moles are generally more defined.
Most regular moles are one single shade of brown. Malignant skin cancers can often appear blotchy in colour, with different shades of brown, black, red, pearl, or even blue.
Skin cancers tend to grow in size, while normal moles and freckles usually stay the same size. Moles larger than 6mm in diameter should be checked by a skin cancer professional.
Be aware of any new moles or changes in existing moles regarding shape, size, or colour. Other symptoms of skin cancer may include itching, bleeding, or crusting.
In addition to these, different types of skin cancer will usually present their own unique symptoms:
Symptoms of BCC
A Basal Cell Carcinoma can develop anywhere, but usually appears on areas of the body which receive frequent and intermittent sun exposure such as the head, neck, shoulders, and back. It may present as a pearly lump, or a dry, scaly area that is pale or bright pink in colour.
Symptoms of SCC
Squamous Cell Carcinoma is often found in areas of the body which receive the most sun exposure, such as the head, neck, hands, and forearms. It may present as a rapidly growing lump, a scaly red spot, or give the appearance of a sore that has not healed.
Symptoms of Melanoma
Melanomas can appear anywhere on the body but are most frequently found in areas which receive the most sun exposure such as such as the head, neck, shoulders, back, hands and forearms. Signs of a melanoma may be detected through the appearance of a new freckle or mole, or changes in size, shape, or colour of an existing mole.
Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner. Dr Avery is a member of the two leading professional associations for plastic surgeons in Australia, ASAPS and ASPS. Their websites provide additional information regarding plastic surgery in Australia that you might find useful, please visit ASAPS and ASPS.