It’s a great feeling when the grey skies and unfriendly temperatures of winter have finally made way for sunshine. Who doesn’t love that feeling of warmth on their face and shoulders, those lazy days on the beach or sunning in the backyard? Sign us up!
Unfortunately, one downfall of increased sun exposure is the potential for damage from harmful UVA and UVB rays, which can cause skin cancer. Even during the winter these rays can be damaging, as snow, sand and concrete can also reflect the sun’s rays. According to Cancer Council Australia, two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70, with more than 434,000 people treated for one or more non-melanoma skin cancers in Australia each year. That’s a huge percentage of Australians.
A good rule of thumb for evaluating moles or skin lesions is the ABCD’s. Here’s a quick rundown:
- “A” refers to asymmetry. A mole that appears asymmetrical or grows asymmetrically should be evaluated by a physician.
- “B” stands for borders. Typically, a non-cancerous (or “benign”) mole will have a smooth, well-defined border. If you notice a mole becoming irregularly-shaped, consult your primary care physician.
- “C” indicates colour. A normal mole will be uniform in colour, but if you notice a change in colour or a “mottled” appearance to a mole, that should also prompt you to seek medical attention.
- “D”, the final rule” stands for diameter, or size. A general guideline is that any mole or lesion larger than 6 mm could be a cause for concern and should be evaluated by a professional.
Many moles and skin lesions turn out to be benign, but it’s all about staying on top of your health and well-being.
If you’ve already gotten a diagnosis of skin cancer, the good news is that advances in cosmetic surgery have made the removal of cancerous moles or skin lesions efficient and largely unnoticeable when completed. If your primary care physician has confirmed your diagnosis with a biopsy, you will likely be a candidate for skin cancer surgery. We know that even a small surgery can be anxiety-provoking, and sometimes it’s helpful to know a bit about what you’re in for before you go in for treatment. A competent plastic surgeon will be happy to keep the lines of communication open and alleviate the concerns you may have.
For removing a smaller cancerous tumour, the most common procedure is surgical excision often using something known as curettage. Before curettage, you will receive a local anaesthetic to reduce pain or irritation and the cancerous tissue will be removed with a small tool, known as a curette, which resembles a spoon. Often this procedure is followed by an electrocautery needle, which is an efficient way of destroying any remaining cancerous cells. Again, with the use of local anaesthetic you may some minor pressure, but you shouldn’t feel pain.
Another common method of treating skin cancer is cryotherapy, which you may have heard referred to as “freezing.” For this treatment, liquid nitrogen is applied to the cancerous tissue, which destroys the cancerous cells by freezing them. Sometimes the treatment is repeated to ensure optimal results.
Radiation therapy is also sometimes used, but typically only in advanced cases of skin cancer where the cancerous tissue has spread to other organs, or in cases where the tumour is not treatable using surgery.
A minor excision shouldn’t leave permanent scarring, especially if you are using the services of a cosmetic surgeon who specializes in this type of treatment. If scarring persists and you are concerned, there are many non-surgical options for reducing the appearance, including microdermabrasion, scar massage or application of silicone gel, which works by hydrating the scar tissue. Ask your plastic surgeon for more information.
At the end of the day, facing health concerns can be a source of anxiety and uncertainty. By undergoing surgery for a cancerous skin tumour, you are taking steps to ensure your well-being, which is the most important thing to remember. That being said, it’s normal to have questions about the procedure itself and the recovery process. We hope this gives you an idea of what you will likely be dealing with. If you’ve done your research and found an effective plastic surgeon, the process will be smooth and the recovery time minimal. We wish you the best of luck on your cosmetic journey.