Skin cancer is on the rise among Americans, and it is not surprising, considering the popularity of tanning beds and outdoor activities. The good news is that awareness is increasing, prompting more people to protect themselves from harmful UV rays. While this will help reduce the number of skin cancer cases overall in the U.S., there will still always be some people who develop the disease. There are a number of different types of skin cancer, which range greatly in deadliness and prevalence. Fortunately, the least deadly of the skin cancer types, basal cell carcinoma, is also the most common. If caught early, treatment is typically very successful. However, basal cell carcinoma can sometimes be disfiguring if left untreated for too long. Here are the basics of this type of cancer, and information on how cosmetic reconstruction can be called for following treatment.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Skincancer.org estimates that there are 2.8 million cases of basal cell carcinoma diagnosed in the U.S. every year. This type of cancer is typically not deadly, but it can be dangerous and disfiguring. Unfortunately, carcinomas can vary greatly in appearance, making it difficult to know whether an irregularity is a sign of cancer or not. The best way to detect early basal cell carcinoma is to get to know your own skin and be on the lookout for abnormalities. Signs of cancer may include:
- Persistent bleeding or oozing sores
- Red patches
- Mole-like growths
- Scar-like patches
- Pink growths
Basal cell carcinoma can occur in anyone, but people with light skin, hair, and eyes, are at greater risk for developing skin cancer. The best course of action is to prevent UV exposure as much as possible and see a doctor about any suspicious changes in the skin.
Treatment and Reconstruction
Skin cancer treatment has a health aspect and a cosmetic aspect. Both are crucial to the patient’s recovery, and fortunately there are good procedures in place for attending to both sides of the problem.
The first part of skin cancer treatment is removal of the cancerous cells themselves. This is often done using a method called MOHS surgery, a technique that has an approximately 98 percent success rate in removing cancer cells, while preserving surrounding tissue. The surgeon removes layers of the affected area and examines each layer for cancer cells before moving on to the next layer. This process is continued until no more cancer cells are found.
Often, though the technique is lauded for removing only the affected tissue, the MOHS process leaves scars that can cause the patient great embarrassment. A talented plastic surgeon can assess each case and choose a method for reconstruction that will work best for each patient. This is why it is important that the surgeon is experienced and skilled. Reconstruction needs can vary widely, sometimes requiring techniques like skin grafting, scar excision, tissue expansion, and more, depending on the severity of the trauma. While in some cases the patient may not look totally normal after reconstruction, great improvement is usually possible following skin cancer treatment.
It is important for skin cancer patients to keep in contact with their doctors about their skin, as basal cell carcinoma is prone to reoccurrence.
An Expert Team
If you think you may have basal cell carcinoma, then it is important to seek treatment immediately. For the best chances of success, you should work with a MOHS expert and an experienced facial plastic surgeon to perform your treatments. Dr. Stuart Bentkover of Bentkover Facial Plastic Surgery in Worcester(508-363-6500) and Stoneham (617-247-0033), MA, offers facial reconstruction to cancer patients, and has worked extensively with MOHS expert Dr. Donald J. Grande. Dr. Bentkover and Dr. Grande have been collaborating for over 25 years to help patients recover from skin cancer. Want to find out more? Call Dr. Bentkover’s office today to schedule a consultation.