Skin Cancer: Quick action, effective treatments make the difference

Skin CancerPeople of all colors, ages and races get skin cancer. Of all the cancers affecting humans, skin cancer is the most common. In the U.S., the incidence of skin cancer is increasing across all ethnicities.

There are four major types of skin cancer, each with its own unique characteristics. These include:

Actinic Keratoses. AK appears as dry, scaly patches or spots. It is considered the earliest stage in the development of skin cancer. AKs usually appear in fair-skinned people after age 40. Young people who overexpose their skin to the sun or use indoor tanning can develop AKs. AKs form on places that get the most exposure such as the head, neck, hands and forearms. Proper use of sunscreen can help prevent the formation of AKs.

Basal Cell Carcinoma. BCC is the most common form of skin cancer. BCCs often look like a flesh-colored, pearl-like bump. They may also appear as a pinkish patch. BCCs develop on skin that gets the most exposure, but can also form on the trunk and lower limbs. Frequently found in fair-skinned individuals, they can also affect those with darker skin. Although it usually grows slowly and rarely spreads to other parts of the body, it should be treated promptly as it can invade surrounding tissue and grow into the nerves and bones.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma is the second-most common type of cancer. It looks like a firm bump, scaly patch, or a sore that heals and the re-opens. It is usually reddish in color and tends to form on skin that is frequently exposed to the sun, such as the rim of the ear, face, neck, arms, and trunk. It most often occurs in fair-skinned people, but also can be found in those with dark skin. SCC can grow deep and spread to other parts of the body. Early treatment is very important.

The most deadly form of skin cancer, melanoma, develops in a mole or appears suddenly as a new dark spot on the skin. Every year, more than 8,500 Americans (nearly one person an hour) die from melanoma. Because a change in the appearance of a mole is often its first sign, it’s important to know where moles are on your body and what they look like. When detected early and treated before it spreads, melanoma is highly curable.

The ABCDE warning signs of melanoma can help in detecting this deadly form of cancer:

• A = ASSYMETRY. The mole or spot is irregularly shaped. One does not mirror the other half.
• B = BORDER. Irregular or poorly defined border
• C = COLOR. Shades of tan, brown, and black and varied from one area to another. Lesions can sometimes be white, red, or blue.
• D = DIAMETER. Melanomas are usually larger than 6mm (the size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed. However, they can be smaller.
• E = EVOLVING. A mole or skin lesion that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape, or color. Other changes that could indicate melanoma are pain, itch, or bleeding in a mole or new spot on the skin.

Much like any form of cancer, treatment of skin cancer will likely require surgery to remove the lesion. Scarring is likely, with more advanced lesions leaving larger scars. Plastic surgeons are especially attuned to patient concerns regarding scars and disfigurement and will work do everything possible to treat the cancer without dramatically changing your appearance.

A plastic surgeon can surgically remove cancerous and other skin lesions using specialized techniques to preserve health and appearance.

Scars are visible signs that remain after a wound has healed. They are unavoidable results of injury or surgery, and their development can be unpredictable. Poor healing may contribute to scars that are obvious, unsightly or disfiguring. Even a wound that heals well can result in a scar that affects your appearance.

A plastic surgeon can assist with minimizing the appearance of scars, including those that are raised or recessed, different in color or texture from surrounding healthy tissue or particularly noticeable due to their size, shape or location.

Scar revision procedures help to minimize the scar so that it is more consistent with your surrounding skin tone and texture.

If you have a suspicious mole, patch or lesion on your skin, talk with your doctor right away. To learn more about scar revision surgery or treatment options for skin cancer, call King’s Daughters plastic surgeon W. Bryan Rogers III, M.D., at (606) 324-2600.

W. Bryan Rogers III, M.D. is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and is Fellowship trained in Microvascular Surgery. Dr. Rogers completed his internship at Prince George’s Medical Center and continued his training as a resident at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C.

Practicing in Ashland since 1993, plastic surgeon W. Bryan Rogers, M.D., understands area residents and their cosmetic and reconstructive needs. Dr. Rogers completed general surgery and plastic surgery residencies at Georgetown University Hospital, Washington, D.C., (1987); as well as a microvascular surgery fellowship at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, Calif., (1990).

Board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and a fellow of the American College of Surgeons, Dr. Rogers specializes in a variety of cosmetic and reconstructive solutions.

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