Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in Australia accounting for 80% of all new diagnoses. The three most common forms are basal cell carcinomas (BCC), squamous cell carcinomas (SCC), and melanomas. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun is the most common cause of skin cancers. However, UV exposure from tanning beds, welding equipment, and industrial applications can also cause skin cancers. Exposure to chemicals, such as arsenic, and coal tar, over a long period of time can also lead to the formation of some skin cancers.
Basal Cell Carcinomas
Of all skin cancers, BCCs are encountered most frequently (70% of all skin cancer diagnoses). There are different types, and not all need to be removed with surgery. They rarely spread beyond their borders (metastasize), and are usually treated in one procedure. Prompt diagnosis ensures an easier treatment and better outcome.
Squamous Cell Carcinomas
SCCs are the next most common skin cancer (about 25% of all skin cancers) and can occur in many areas of the body. They can spread to other areas of the body if neglected, and are removed with wider margins. These types of skin cancers can occur on the ears and lip, and tend to be more aggressive in these locations.
Melanoma is the least common (about 5% of skin cancers), but is the leading cause of skin cancer deaths (#3 overall cause of cancer deaths (Australian Government Cancer Australia, 2014), Melanoma Institute of Australia). Australia has the highest melanoma incidence in the world, with Queensland being the leading state (Team). Like BCCs, there are different varieties and all should be treated urgently. Melanomas have a tendency to spread to other parts of the body, and regular monitoring of local or distant recurrence should be performed.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Some skin lesions require a biopsy of tissue to determine the lesion type. This can be done using local anaesthetic during your consult. If the lesion needs to be further excised, this can be discussed with Dr. Perron.
Most small lesions can be excised and leave a small scar. Larger lesions may need a flap, or skin graft to repair the defect.
With some BCCs and IECs (intraepithelial carcinoma), a topical treatment can be used, and an excision can be avoided.
Depending on the location of the skin lesion, most can be done in the office under local anaesthesia. However, some locations are very difficult to address under local anaesthesia, and may need to be performed under sedation or a general anaesthetic.
After your procedure, you may have dressings that need to be changed or sutures that need to be removed. Details regarding the histology of your lesion can be discussed at that time.