If you have been diagnosed with skin cancer, you are not alone. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States and its incidence continues to rise. Anyone can get skin cancer – no matter what your skin type, race or age, no matter where you love or what you do. Although skin cancers can be found on any part of the body, about 80 percent appear on the face, head or neck, where they may be disfiguring as well as dangerous.
Fortunately, most skin cancers can be removed by plastic surgeons. If the cancer is small, the procedure usually can be performed quickly and easily by Dr. Dufresne in the office. In many cases, the resulting scar will be barely visible, or will be concealed within the natural folds and contours of your face.
What types of skin cancers can be removed by plastic surgeons?
Although most skin cancers can be removed surgically, your specific treatment will depend on the type of cancer you have, its stage of growth and its location on your body. Skin cancer is diagnosed by removing all or part of the growth and sending the sample to a pathologist for analysis. Plastic surgeons treat of the following types of skin caners:
Basal cell carinoma – This is the most common and least dangerous form of skin cancer. It tends to grow slowly and rarely spreads beyond its original site.
Squamous cell carcinoma – This is the second-most-common type of skin cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma frequently appears on the lips, face or ears. It sometimes spreads to distant sites, including the lymph nodes and teh internal organs.
Malignant melanoma – This is the least common, but the most dangerous form of skin cancer. If discovered early enough, it can be completely cured. If it’s not treated quickly, however, malignant melanoma may spread through the body and become life threatening.
Dr. Dufresne can also treat other types of skin growths including:
Moles – These growths appear as clusters of heavily pigmented skin cells that may be flat or raised above the skin’s surface. While most pose no danger, some may develop into malignant melanoma, particularly those that have mottled colors or irregular edges. Often, moles are removed for cosmetic reasons, or because they’re constantly irritated from rubbing against clothing or jewelry.
Kerotoses – These rough red or brown patches on the skin are usually found on areas exposed to the sun. They sometimes develop into squamous cell cancer.
How is skin cancer removed?
The method used to remove your skin cancer depends largely on the type of cancer you have, its stage of growth and its location on the body. Dr. Dufresne’s goal is to remove the growth in a way that maintains function and offers the most pleasing final appearance – a consideration that may be especially important if the cancer is in a highly visible area.
If the cancer is small, Dr. Dufresne may remove it with a simple excision, which leaves a thin, barely visible scar. In some cases, the cancer may be removed with curettage and desiccation. In this procedure, the cancer is removed with a sharp instrument and the area is treated with an electric current to control bleeding and to eliminate any remaining cancer cells. Other methods of treatment may include radiation therapy, cryosurgery (freezing the cancer cells); topical chemotherapy, in which anti-cancer drugs are applied to the skin; or Moh’s surgery, a procedure in which the cancer is shaved off one layer at a time. If you are to undergo a Moh’s procedure with another physician, Dr. Dufresne can perform the closure to help achieve an optimal result with minimal scarring.
If the cancer is larger in size, or if it has spread to the lymph nodes, more complex surgery may be required. If removing the cancer leaves a cosmetic defect, Dr. Dufresne can use reconstructive techniques – ranging from simple scar revision to a more complex transfer of skin and tissue – to repair damaged areas, rebuild facial structures and help restore appearance and function.
Craig R. Dufresne, M.D., F.A.C.S. is conveniently located to serve Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax County