Skin cancer is by far the most common kind of cancer, and the head and neck are the most frequently affected areas of the body. The goals of skin cancer treatment are to remove the cancer and then restore the affected area so that ideally the scars are imperceptible.
Skin cancer comes in three main forms
1. Basal cell cancers are the most common. They are also the least aggressive and most easily treated. They tend to start as pearly nodules with superficial blood vessels across the surface. With time, they grow and can ulcerate.
2. Squamous cell cancer is the second most common type of skin cancer. It tends to be more aggressive than basal cell cancer, but usually can still be easily treated if caught early. Lesions typically start as a red, rough, scaly patch that may bleed. With time, they get larger and may spread.
3. Melanoma is the most aggressive kind of skin cancer. Melanomas arise from pigment-containing skin cells. Frequently, melanoma patients will require additional treatment beyond simple excision of the lesion.
Both basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer are relatively easy to treat with surgery. The tumor is removed along with a rim of normal tissue. A pathologist checks the lesion to be sure all of it was removed before a repair is done.
Reconstructive techniques usually involve using skin surrounding a surgical defect to repair the wound. This is done by freeing it up and moving it or making additional incisions that allow skin to be rotated into a wound. Infrequently, we may take skin from other areas of your head and neck to repair a wound. While we can not do a surgery that leaves no scars, our repair techniques are designed to make scars as invisible as possible. Please visit our photo gallery to see our skin cancer patients’ results.
Prevention is always the best strategy for dealing with skin cancer. Dr. Schmidt recommends that all patients wear physical-based sun screen when they are going to be in the sun. If you ever have a skin lesion that you are concerned about, have it checked.
For more of Dr. Schmidt’s thoughts on skin cancer and facial reconstruction, check out our blog post archives: