Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
BCCs are skin cancers that grow on the epidermis, or outer layer of the skin. While a BCCA can look like an open sore or reddened area of skin, it can also look like a small scar or shiny growth, thus appearing fairly benign. The most common cause of such cancers is sun exposure. While BCCA’s can be aggressive locally, this growth is usually slow and, fortunately, they do not spread to other parts of the body. However, if left untreated, a BCCA can create disfigurement of involved structures.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is another type of skin cancer that also grow in the epidermis. SCCs usually look more menacing than BCCA’s being more elevated or wart like, commonly with an open sore that may crust or bleed. They also are the result of long-term sun exposure. SCC’s are more aggressive and destructive than most BCC’s, and can spread in certain cases. While they commonly occur on sun exposed areas, they can also occur on mucous membranes.
Treatment of Basal Cell and Squamous Cell Cancers
Diagnosis of skin cancer is generally done with a “shave” biopsy by Dr. Atkins. If the diagnosis is made, surgical excision will be recommended with enough tissue excised to have a free “margin” of normal skin around the cancer to limit the chance of recurrence. It becomes essential to limit your skin to sun exposure.
Malignant melanoma is the worst form of skin cancer. It is difficult to detect and extremely dangerous as it has a high propensity to spread throughout the body. The melanoma cancer cells tend to multiply rapidly. Unfortunately, melanomas are often confused with skin moles and some actually start as a mole. They tend to be dark in color but can be multi-colored and tend to be irregularly shaped. While sun exposure is usually the trigger for melanomas, there may be some genetic predisposition.
Treatment of Melanoma
Like all skin cancers, you can diagnose melanoma by skin biopsies. When there is a high suspicion for melanoma, the doctor will perform an excisional biopsy to “stage” the lesion, with a lower level stage having a far better prognosis than a deeper high level stage. Definitive treatment can be difficult, especially if the cancer has spread, but wide surgical excision is the mainstay. Immunotherapy appears to have a role in treatment of higher staged melanoma.