The first step in diagnosing skin cancer is to have a skin check.
If Dr Theris finds a suspicious mole or lesion, the area may require a skin biopsy. This is a quick and simple procedure where a small sample of the lesion will be removed and sent to the lab for analysis under a microscope. A biopsy can determine whether you have skin cancer and, if so, what type of skin cancer you have.
There are a number of different treatment methods available for each form of skin cancer. The treatment method used will be dependent on the type, size, location and severity of the skin cancer. Some common examples of treatments available are listed below.
Surgical excision is the most common treatment for skin cancers and is generally performed under local anaesthetic.
The surgical wound is usually closed with skin sutures and leaves a straight scar.
Larger wounds may be closed using a skin graft or flap.
Thin, early-stage melanomas can be removed by minor surgery. Dr Theris uses a local anaesthetic to numb the affected area, then excises the tumour and some nearby normal looking skin tissue around it. A wide margin of healthy skin around the edge of the tumour is removed to ensure that no cancer cells are left behind. The thicker the tumour, the wider the margin required, in terms of both area and depth. The wound is closed with stitches. The excised tissue is then sent to the laboratory to verify that the margins are clear of residual lesion. If cancer cells are found in the margin, further surgery may be required.
Cryotherapy involves freezing a skin lesion with liquid nitrogen. It is sprayed onto the skin for 2-7 seconds depending on the thickness of the lesion and the location of the skin. This procedures usually stings a little.
It is generally reserved for benign lesions like solar keratoses but may be used for superficial basal cell carcinomas in some situations.
Curettage is a simple surgical procedure used for superficial skin cancers. A sharp, spoon-shaped instrument is used to scrape the lesion off the skin under anaesthetic.
The wound is sealed with heat to stop the bleeding therefore avoiding the need for sutures.
The curettage site usually heals with a white scar within a couple of weeks.