Skin is the largest organ of the body, and one of the most common places for cancer to occur. Skin cancer has become a serious epidemic, responsible for over half of all cancer diagnoses in the United States. Each year, thousands of people die from skin cancer, which is why we focus on educating our patients about the importance of prevention and early detection.
Dr. Koreen and the team at the Dermatology & Cosmetic Laser Center in Huntington, NY understand the importance of proper skin care. While we are equipped to effectively diagnose and treat skin cancer, we believe it’s important to emphasize the easy steps individuals can take to lower their risk of cancer and improve the chances of early detection.
In addition to keeping the skin hydrated and moisturized, individuals should also do the following:
- Make sure to wear sunscreen every day, even on days with minimal time spent outside. Wear a broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher product. Sun exposure while driving and walking to and from the car can still hurt the skin.
- Be aware of when you are spending your time outdoors. Try to avoid peak times during the middle of the day when the UV rays are at their strongest.
- Perform self-skin checks at home and make your dermatologist aware of any suspicious moles or spots that you would like checked.
- Maintain regular skin cancer screenings from your dermatologist.
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The importance of regular skin cancer screenings
Regular skin cancer screenings have a major impact on prognosis if a skin cancer is detected. When patients make the time for screenings, it allows the dermatologist to catch any suspicious pre-cancerous and cancerous spots before they become deeper problems. While generally not deadly, cancers like basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma can be disfiguring when not caught early. Discovering these spots before they become problematic can make removal and treatment less invasive. For melanoma, which has the potential to spread to other organs, early detection is vital to long term survival.
During a skin cancer screening, the dermatologist will note any unusual moles, growths, or lesions as well as any changes in existing moles. A skin cancer screening involves checking the body from head to toe and biopsies can be done if necessary.
If a patient discovers a suspicious growth, it’s important to schedule an evaluation. We begin the diagnostic process by taking a complete family medical history, your medical history (including history of sun exposure) and then a physical exam. We will perform a thorough examination of the skin including the surrounding lymph nodes. It’s important to tell us when the spots first appeared and any changes that have occurred in size, color, shape, or texture.
To confirm if the spot is skin cancer, we will take a biopsy. A biopsy involves surgically removing a small area of the spot or growth. We use local anesthetic to make the procedure more comfortable. The excised area is then sent to a pathologist for examination. If the pathologist confirms the growth is malignant (a positive cancer diagnosis), we will recommend treatment options based on several different factors: the type of skin cancer, the stage of the cancer, the location of the cancer, and the individual’s preference.
Some treatment options we may recommend, include:
- Curettage – We recommend this type of treatment for low risk basal cell carcinomas. This type of cancer typically presents as small, superficial growths with well-defined edges. During a curettage procedure, we will use a sharp instrument to essentially scrape away the cancer. A cauterizing needle is then used to minimize any bleeding.
- Surgery – Skin cancer surgery is recommended for high risk tumors. During a skin cancer surgery, the entire tumor will be removed along with a margin of healthy tissue surrounding the tumor. This tissue is then checked by a pathologist for any signs of cancer. If cancer is present, a repeat procedure may be necessary.
- Mohs Surgery – The Mohs procedure is the most conservative way to remove a skin cancer and is one of the most successful. It is often recommended for cancers in highly visible areas such as the face. During Mohs surgery, the skin cancer is removed in small layers that are immediately examined underneath the microscope. This process is repeated until the entire tumor is removed and there are no signs of cancer. Mohs minimizes the disfigurement that can occur with skin cancer surgery and has a very high cure rate.
Skin cancer has the potential to be deadly, but when it is diagnosed early, it can be easy and straightforward to treat. If you are in the Huntington, NY area and have noticed any changes or suspicious areas on your skin, call Dermatology & Cosmetic Laser Center today at (631) 417-3300 to schedule a skin cancer evaluation.