The Wentworth Clinic, Bournemouth

01202 428 773 01202 422 171

Harley Street Clinic, London

0203 417 3891
The Wentworth Clinic

Information on Skin Cancers

The following information is designed to inform the patient on the various forms of skin cancer and it's treatment and removal.

What is Cancer?

Cancer is a disease caused by uncontrolled multiplication of body cells. Our body is constantly making new cells to enable us to grow to replace worn out cells and damaged cells after an injury. Normally, cells grow and multiply in an orderly way. Occasionally however, some cells behave abnormally. They multiply in an uncontrolled manner and these cells may then grow into a lump which is caused a tumour.

Tumours can be benign (non cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Benign tumours do not spread outside their normal boundary to other parts of the body. Malignant tumours however are made of cancer cells. If these cells are not treated, they may spread to the surrounding tissues and sometimes spread to distant sites (metastasize).

Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is caused by uncontrolled multiplication of the surface cells of the skin, usually due to prolonged or excessive ultraviolet light exposure from the sun. The incidences of skin cancer are rising in the United Kingdom. People over 40 are at the highest risk.

Diagnosis

If you check your skin regularly, you should be able to identify suspicious skin lesions or nodules and you would need to seek medical help. Skin cancer is diagnosed clinically and confirmed by a biopsy where the tissues are looked at under the microscope.

Skin cancers take a variety of forms:

  • Melanoma: Melanoma is highly malignant and is therefore the most dangerous skin cancer. Melanoma's grow over weeks to months and can be anywhere on the body. They can appear as a new spot or an existing spot, freckle or mole that changes colour, size and shape. They can have an irregular or smudgy outline and are more than one colour. If any of these signs develop, they should be assessed at the earliest possible time. If treated early, there is an excellent chance of cure.
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC): SCC's are not as dangerous as melanoma but may spread to other parts of the body if untreated. They first appear as a thickened red scaly spot and later may bleed easily or ulcerate. Usually, they appear on sites most often exposed to sun such as the scalp, face, neck, hands and forearm. They grow over some months and sometimes can grow rapidly.
  • Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC): The most common and least dangerous of skin cancers. BCC's typically appear as lumps or scaling areas which are red, pale or pearly in colour. As they grow, they can become ulcerated like an un-healing sore or one that heals and breaks down. These skin cancers do not spread to distant sites but spread locally. They are usually on the head and neck and upper torso and are not necessarily in areas exposed to sun.

Treatment of Skin Cancer

If skin cancer is found at an early stage and on pathology report has been successfully removed by surgery, no further treatment is necessary. Once a skin cancer has developed, it is important to have close vigilance and regular follow up if necessary. Sometimes, skin cancers may need adjuvant radiotherapy.

Surgery to Remove Skin Cancer

If a lot of skin has to be removed, then it is not possible to pull the edges of the skin back together and may need one of the following reconstructions:

Skin graft which involves removing a thin layer of normal skin from the other part of the body such as the neck, behind the ear or anterior abdomen. This piece of skin may be referred to as a split skin graft or a full thickness skin graft. This is placed over the gap and sutured into position with pressure dressings.

Skin flap which is transferring of adjacent local tissue of the same texture and thickness into the defect. This method is often used on the face.

Prevention of Skin Cancer

  • It is not too late to save your skin and help prevent skin cancers.
  • Reduction of sun exposure is essential.
  • Sun protection with regular application of sun screen creams should be used.
  • Broad rim hats are useful.
  • Take particular care between high risk times of 10am to 3pm.
  • Wear sunglasses when you go outside.
  • Avoid using sunbeds

If you have any problems or concerns, please telephone us on 01202-422171 or 01202-428773 for advice.

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