Mountaintop Dermatology Colorado Springs

Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than 3.5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed annually. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.

How do I prevent skin cancer?

Protecting yourself from the sun is the best preventative step you can take. You can have fun in the sun and decrease your risk of skin cancer by following these simple guidelines:

Seek shade when appropriate. Avoid periods of peak sun exposure typically from 10:00 to 2:00.
Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses.
Generously apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or more to all exposed skin. “Broad-spectrum” provides protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Reapply approximately every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.
Avoid tanning beds. Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling. If you want to look tan, consider using a self-tanning product or spray, but continue to use sunscreen with it.

How do I recognize skin cancer?

There are three types of skin cancer that account for nearly all diagnosed cases: Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) and Melanoma.

It is very difficult for someone to look at a picture and tell if they have skin cancer because even the same type of skin cancer can look very different from person to person. Because of this, the best way to tell if you have skin cancer is to see a board-certified dermatologist.

You should see a dermatologist for a skin cancer check right away if you see any spot on your skin that lasts for 2 weeks or longer and is:

  • Growing
  • Changing shape
  • Bleeding or itching

How do dermatologists diagnose skin cancer?

To diagnose skin cancer, our dermatologist will make a detailed inspection of your skin. He will carefully examine growths, moles, and dry patches.

If he finds something that looks like skin cancer, he may choose to remove all or part of it. The removed skin will be sent to a lab. Your dermatologist may call this a biopsy. Skin cancer cannot be diagnosed accurately without a biopsy.

A biopsy is quick, safe, and easy for a dermatologist to perform. A biopsy should not cause anxiety. The discomfort and risks are minimal.

How do dermatologists treat skin cancer?

There are many treatments for skin cancer. A dermatologist selects treatment after considering the following:

  • Type of skin cancer
  • Where the skin cancer appears on the body
  • Whether the skin cancer is aggressive
  • Stage of the cancer (how deeply the skin cancer has grown and whether it has spread)
  • Patient’s health

After considering the above, your dermatologist will choose 1 or more of the following treatments for skin cancer.

After considering the above, your dermatologist will choose one or more of the following treatments for skin cancer.

Surgical Treatment when treating skin cancer, the goal is to remove all of the cancer. When the cancer has not spread, this is often possible. To remove skin cancer, the following surgical treatment may be used:

  • Excision: To perform this, the dermatologist numbs the skin and then surgically cuts out the skin cancer and a small amount of normal-looking skin. This normal-looking skin is called a margin. There are different types of excision. Most excisions can be performed in a dermatologist’s office.
  • Mohs surgery: Mohs surgery begins with the surgeon removing the visible part of the skin cancer. Because cancer cells are not visible to the naked eye, the surgeon also removes some skin that looks normal but may contain cancer cells. This part of the surgery is performed one layer at a time. After removing a layer of skin, it is prepared so that the surgeon can examine it under a microscope and look for cancer cells. If the surgeon sees cancer cells, the surgeon removes another layer of skin. This layer-by-layer approach continues until the surgeon no longer finds cancer cells. In most cases, Mohs surgery can be completed within a day or less. The cure rate for skin cancer is high when Mohs surgery is used. This technique is most useful on areas of the body such as the nose, ears and around the eyes because it allows the dermatologist to remove the least amount of normal skin as necessary.
  • Curettage and electrodessication: This surgical procedure may be used to treat superficial basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers. It involves scraping the tumor with a curette (a surgical instrument with sharp edges) and then using an electric needle to gently cauterize (burn) the remaining cancer cells and some normal-looking tissue. The wound heals without stitches.

How successful is skin cancer treatment?

If it is caught early and properly treated, skin cancer can be cured. Even melanoma, which can be deadly, has a cure rate over 95% when detected and treated early.

Even if you get a clean bill of health, you need to continue to see your dermatologist. Once a person gets skin cancer, the risk of getting another skin cancer is higher. Sometimes skin cancer returns. Your dermatologist will tell you how often you should return for checkups.

Without early treatment, the outcome is not as favorable. Skin cancer can grow deeply. Removing the cancer can mean removing muscle and even bone. Reconstructive surgery may be needed after the surgery to remove the skin cancer. And skin cancer can spread.

If the cancer spreads, treatment can be difficult. Treatment may not cure cancer that spreads.


©Mountaintop Dermatology - All Rights Reserved - Managed by Practis