About Skin Cancer
A typical misconception many people have about skin cancer is that the condition of the skin looks like it could be something else, like an infected sore, a bump in the skin, or a mole that is just a little darker than the rest. At The Gill Center for Plastic Surgery and Dermatology, we offer skin cancer screenings to all of our patients. Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Anita Gill trained at MD Anderson Cancer Center and is very experienced in monitoring for the signs of melanoma (skin cancer). If you have a mole or a lesion that has changed in shape, symmetry, color, and size — these are all characteristics of a developing skin cancer. Also keep in mind that if you let it turn into a large growth from postponing your treatment, you do run the risk of having a disfiguring scar with nerve and muscle damage in the area after the removal. Let Dr. Anita Gill take a look and give you the treatment you need and deserve. There are three main types of skin cancer — basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Everyone should have a minimum of a once-yearly total body skin examination. In addition, Dr. Anita Gill recommends doing body checks at home.
Types of Skin Cancers
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer. More than a million people annually are diagnosed with BCC. It is a form of cancer that often occurs on sun-exposed areas, like the face, ears, chest, and upper back. However, it may also occur on areas of the body that have not had much sun exposure. BCC often times looks shiny and pearly, but it may also look like a pimple that won’t heal or a rash. Although this type of cancer does not typically spread to other parts of the body (metastasize), it does grow, scab, and bleed locally, and it can be very destructive to deep structures. When caught at an early stage, it is straightforward to treat and is done so in the office.
Squamous cell carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most prevalent skin cancer. The areas of the body affected are similar to basal cell cancer. Squamous cell cancers can look like a red scaly rash, a wart-like growth, a thick, crusty scab, or a bleeding sore. Although not frequently, SCC can spread (metastasize) and they must be treated. Most of the time, we can remove the SCC right here in The Woodlands office.
Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. If it is diagnosed and removed while it is still thin and limited to the outermost skin layer, melanoma is almost 100% curable. Once cancer advances and metastasizes (spreads) to the other parts of the body, it is hard to treat and can be deadly. During the past 10 years, the number of cases of melanoma has increased more rapidly than any other cancer. More than 51,000 new cases are reported to the American Cancer Society each year, and it is probable that many more occur and are not reported. If the melanoma is in an advanced stage, Dr. Gill will provide you with her recommendations on removal and further treatment after the excision.
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Skin cancer is a progressive disease that may take years to develop. Overexposure to the sun (ultraviolet rays) will cause cells to morph into cancer. If you are doing a self-check for skin cancer lesions or have one that should be looked at by Dr. Anita Gill, you should look for the Melanoma Research Foundation's ABCDEs of skin cancer characteristics.
A – Asymmetric
A cancerous lesion will not be symmetrical (the same on both sides) so it will have an unconventional shape.
B – Border
Just like the shape, the border of a skin cancer mole will have an abnormal appearance.
C – Color
A common, benign mole will be a shade of brown or tan. Melanomas have several colors — black, blue, brown, and tan.
D – Diameter
If your mole or growth is larger than 6 millimeters, you should have it checked out (especially if it appears to be constantly growing).
E – Evolution
The evolution of the mole, lesion, bump, rash, or abnormality you see within your skin should be your number one concern when it comes to finding skin cancer. If you have witnessed a change in the symmetry, shape, color, or size in that area of your skin, please make an appointment to see Dr. Gill. It could save your life.
After Dr. Anita Gill has confirmed the diagnosis by doing a biopsy of the abnormal cells, she can treat it in multiple ways. The cells will have to be removed either surgically, excised with a medical-grade instrument (scraping), freezing, or heating the area to eliminate the active cancer cells. Mohs surgery is another popular technique used to remove a cancerous tumor and is performed over the course of several weeks. You will have a treatment plan based on your needs. She will also want to discuss how to care for yourself after the cells are removed and the next steps to take.
What to Expect
Everyone should have a minimum of a once-yearly total body skin examination. In addition, Dr. Anita Gill recommends doing body checks at home. We are here for you no matter what stage or condition your skin is in. The Gill Center for Plastic Surgery and Dermatology will help you manage the condition and heal your skin.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I really need to protect my skin from the sun all year?
It's advisable to protect your skin from the sun at all times in order to prevent cancer from occurring (or recurring). Use of sunglasses and a good-quality sunscreen is highly recommended. Wearing long-sleeve shirts and using a hat for sun protection both help to keep damage caused by the sun in check. It is also important that you stay vigilant and keep an eye on your skin to detect any such further growths on your body.
Is melanoma curable?
Melanoma is a critical form of skin cancer. Even so, if diagnosed and removed in the early stages while it is still tenuous and confined to the outermost skin layer, melanoma can be curable. This is why it is very important to have a growth, or an abnormal-looking mole checked out by a physician.
What kind of cancer can spread?
It is rare that a squamous cell carcinoma spreads to other areas of the body, but it can. Melanomas are known to spread very quickly as it grows. Metastatic melanoma (Stage 3 and 4) will rapidly take over the lymph nodes, blood vessels, lungs, liver, and/or brain when or if the cells advance throughout the body.
Am I a high-risk skin cancer candidate?
As you know, everyone has the possibility of developing some form of skin cancer. However, there are factors that make you a higher risk than others, such as:
- A family history of developing moles, skin lesions, precancerous growths, and skin cancer
- A fair complexion
- Darkened your skin in the sun or tanning bed
- Sunburns at any age put you at risk for skin cancer
- Repeatedly overexposing your skin to the sun, radiation, and other harsh substances
- On medications that make your skin more sensitive to sunlight
- A vulnerable immune system
Keep in mind that if you have had skin cancer in the past, this makes your chances of developing it again even greater. The best advice we can give you is to self-check your skin regularly, wear sunscreen, and protect your skin from overexposure.
Plan Your Procedure
Arrange A Visit Today
You can learn more about your risks for basal cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, and melanomas by speaking with experienced, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Anita Gill. During a consultation, she will examine your skin and diagnose any suspicious growths. Make an appointment by contacting our office at your earliest convenience.