Skin cancer refers to the irregular growth of cells in the outermost layer of the skin called the epidermis. According to research, skin cancer affects more than 3 million Americans yearly. In fact, over 9,500 adults in America get diagnosed with this condition every day.
Skin cancer is categorized into three main types depending on the type of skin cell it affects. They are as follows:
Basal cell carcinoma
is the most commonly occurring form of skin cancer characterized by the abnormal growth of basal cells in the epidermis. It usually develops on skin areas frequently exposed to the sun, such as the face and the neck.
Squamous cell carcinoma
is a type of cancer that affects the squamous cells of the skin. It presents itself as a red nodule or flat sore that can occur anywhere in the body, specifically areas commonly exposed to the UV rays of the sun or tanning beds.
is the most severe type of skin cancer that affects the melanocytes at the lower part of the epidermis. It is considered life-threatening because it proliferates quickly and tends to spread to the other parts or organs of the body.
Most patients develop skin cancer due to overexposure to UV (ultraviolet) rays coming from the sun, tanning beds, and other sources.
Initially, frequent exposure to the UV rays causes the skin to develop sunburns and slight scarring. The damage will start to build up as the skin repeatedly gets exposed, causing it to sustain some disfigurement in its appearance, texture, and color.
Fortunately, the right plastic surgeon can help remove these cancerous lesions while still preserving the health and appearance of your skin.
How is skin cancer detected and diagnosed?
Skin cancer is one of the easiest conditions to detect. You can quickly see it by examining your skin thoroughly一from your scalp to the soles of your feet. Some of the most common appearances of skin cancer include:
- A growing mole or one that changes in color and texture
- Scaly patch
- Non-healing lesions that may sometimes be painful
- A brown or black spot or bump
- Dark streaks under the nails
Once you find a suspicious-looking spot on your skin, it’s crucial to visit your GP, dermatologist, or plastic surgeon right away. Your physician will examine the skin and perform a skin biopsy test to confirm if the suspicious spot is cancerous.
If the biopsy does reveal that it is cancer, then your surgeon will proceed with treating it by removal or excision.
If the carcinoma is large, your doctor might need to conduct a few other tests to see if the cancer has already infiltrated the nearby lymph nodes. Additional tests may include imaging exams, such as a CT scan or PET scan, to determine the extent and staging of your cancer.
Skin cancer removal and reconstruction
Treatment for skin cancer may vary depending on its size, severity, depth, and location. For example, an early skin cancer lesion may be treated using non-surgical methods, such as applying topical creams.
However, a severe and large one will require surgical excision, often leaving a scar or a hole in the skin. Luckily, here’s where your plastic surgeon may come in handy.
No surgical procedure leaves the skin unscarred. But the good news is that these scars and disfigurements don’t need to be a permanent feature in your face or body. A plastic surgeon like Dr. Zaydon can help reconstruct the skin defect left by the cancerous lesion through different procedures, such as:
Skin cancer lesions that are small and superficial may be removed completely during the skin biopsy test. Once removed, your plastic surgeon may perform a simple primary repair of the resulting wound by suturing its edges.
Your surgeon may extend the wound’s incision and then stitch it up in line with your skin’s tension lines. The resulting scar will now have a much smoother edge and minimal visibility.
Local flap reconstruction
A local flap reconstruction or adjacent tissue rearrangement is the primary technique used for skin cancer reconstruction in the face.
The local flap method involves repositioning a nearby healthy tissue to cover the resulting cancer lesion, thus minimizing its visibility once it’s healed. Your surgeon will suture the local flap in conjunction with the tension lines of your face or body.
Instead of a local flap, your plastic surgeon may opt to do skin grafting, especially if the cancer defect is large but shallow. This technique involves removing healthy skin from a part of your body and then using it to reconstruct the cancer wound in another part of your skin.
However, a few disadvantages may come with skin grafting, such as unmatched contour and color and failure of new blood vessels to grow.
Cancer lesions that have already healed into visible scars may still be reconstructed by your surgeon through scar revision. This involves different techniques that can help minimize the scarring and allow it to blend into the surrounding skin for optimal aesthetic results. This includes the following:
- Topical treatments
- Injectables or dermal filler
- Surface treatments, such as laser therapy, dermabrasion, and chemical peel solutions.
Skin cancer screening and prevention
Despite innovative treatments and reconstructive surgeries, the best treatment is still prevention. So here are several ways how you can reduce your risk of developing skin cancer:
- Avoid sun exposure or stay in the shade, specifically from 10 am to 4 pm, where UV rays are at its strongest.
- Make it a habit to wear a broad-spectrum sunblock with an SPF of 30 or higher.
- Avoid using tanning beds and other indoor tanning activities that use UV rays.
- Examine yourself every month and look for unusual lesions, bumps, and spots.
- Get yourself checked by your dermatologist or plastic surgeon at least once a year.
Even if you don’t have any history of skin cancer, it’s vital to see your doctor annually (or more) for a skin examination. Early diagnosis of skin cancer allows your physician to administer treatment, thus preventing its spread and increasing your chances of survival.
Where to find the best plastic surgery consultant in Miami?
If you’re looking for a doctor specializing in reconstructive surgery of cancer defects and scars, then you have come to the right place.
Dr. Thomas J. Zaydon is a board-certified reconstructive plastic surgeon who has been practicing in this field for more than 30 years. He can help repair your damaged skin, restore its appearance, and permanently erase the defects left by the skin cancer.
The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.