When a skin cancer biopsy returns positive for cancer, the news can feel devastating. The incidence of melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer, has steadily risen over the past ten years. Yet when caught early and treated properly, patients in Conroe and the Woodlands have an excellent prognosis for a full recovery with minimal discomfort.
Types of Skin Cancer
An annual skin cancer exam by your dermatologist can quickly distinguish normal moles and skin tags from suspicious ones. After a biopsy determines the type of skin cancer, your dermatologist will create a treatment plan to ensure the complete removal of cancer. The three different types of skin cancer are:
- Basal cell
- Squamous cell
Dr. Perri bases all treatment on the location, depth, and width of the cancer to find the right option for your specific situation. Most skin cancer treatment can be performed with a local anesthetic at Dr. Perri’s office in the Woodlands or Conroe.
Evaluating Treatment Options for Skin Cancer
In addition to the type of skin cancer and its location, Dr. Perri uses certain measurements to determine the treatment that will be most successful for your type of skin cancer. The two measurements used in melanoma are:
- Breslow’s depth
- Clark’s level
These measurements provide Dr. Perri with an overview of how aggressive it is. From that point, he can provide patients in Conroe and the Woodlands with the option that has the highest chance of success.
Treatment for Melanoma and Dysplastic Nevi
Although affecting approximately 5% of skin cancer patients, melanoma is responsible for the majority of deaths related to skin cancer. Melanoma can be broken into two categories based on depth and location:
- In-situ/thin: Earliest stage of melanoma. Cancer is limited to the epidermis (topmost layers of skin). Dr. Perri will remove the cancer as well as a 1 cm margin of skin under local anesthesia in his office.
- Deep/aggressive: Melanoma has progressed beyond the upper layers of skin. Patients may require outpatient surgery under general anesthesia. A wider margin of skin will need to be removed, and sometimes lymph node biopsy performed to assess whether melanoma has progressed to local lymph nodes.
The recommended treatment for this type of skin cancer is to remove the entire area of skin as well as a small margin of healthy skin. This method of excision, known as free surgical margins, significantly reduces the risk of cancer from returning to this area and developing in surrounding areas.
Treatment for Basal and/or Squamous Cell Cancer
Both basal and squamous cell cancer have lower mortality rates than melanoma. However, patients in Conroe and the Woodlands will need to undergo treatment to remove the cancer and prevent its spread to tissue and bones. Treatment for basal and squamous cell cancer tends to be less invasive and is broken into four categories:
- Excision: The cancer, as well as a 5 mm skin margin, is removed. This is performed under local anesthesia at Dr. Perri’s office.
- Moh’s surgery: Reserved for more sensitive areas such as the lips, nose, and ears, this treatment addresses very large, aggressive cancer by removing skin one layer at a time. After removal, the Moh’s surgeon will examine each layer under a microscope to determine if he needs to continue. This procedure is performed in-office under local anesthesia.
- Curettage/electrodesiccation: For small, non-aggressive cancer, patients receive treatment in Dr. Perri’s office under local anesthesia. A curette is used to scrape away cancer cells. The treatment area is then desiccated using a hyfrector.
- Medication: Removes superficial cancer on low-risk areas such as the trunk, arms, and legs. Patients apply a topical cream such as 5-fluorouracil or efudex every day for 1-2 months. The treated area becomes inflamed and irritated, eliminating the cancer.
While the ultimate choice of treatment is at the discretion of each patient, Dr. Perri cautions patients in Conroe and the Woodlands that milder forms of cancer treatment may not be as effective as excision and Moh’s surgery for long-term prevention.
Recovering from Skin Cancer
Skin cancer patients have an excellent chance of recovering from skin cancer, and mortality rates are very low. However, because melanoma is on the rise, Dr. Perri recommends that patients come in for an annual skin examination to identify signs of skin cancer and seek treatment early to avoid more invasive procedures.