Skin Cancer Treatment – Adelaide
The majority of Australians grow up leading active lifestyles. Thanks to the amount of sunshine we enjoy year-round, our sports and social activities are predominantly conducted outdoors. Ask anyone living here and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t follow Aussie rules football or watch cricket or go hiking. All these activities expose us to the sun and increase our risk of contracting skin cancer.
Studies have proven that people with more melanin (in other words, those with darker skin) are less likely to get skin cancer. However, a lot of us in Australia don’t have this advantage. We have a high population of light-skinned people with ancestors from colder climates with less direct sunlight and are therefore ill-equipped to deal with intense sunlight. Because of our non-existent ozone layer, two out of three Australians need some form of skin cancer treatment during our lifetime.
Even though fewer people with darker skin develop skin cancer, those who do tend to be plagued with higher mortality. This is due to the discovery of the disease in later stages when it has invaded other parts of the body and is consequently harder to remove, which makes regular skin cancer screening so important.
How it works
Skin cancer screening
At the time of writing, there is no formal skin cancer screening program in Australia. But it is paramount that we become familiar with our skin and our various moles and spots as early detection is crucial for successful treatment.
Ideally, adults should have skin check screening every two years unless risk factors necessitate more frequent visits. Any signs of changes in existing skin pigmentation should prompt a skin cancer screening. No matter what your skin tone is, those who have never had a skin screening should rectify that and get your skin checked by a dermatologist or a GP.
ACM’s own Dr Targett, who is a GP with special training in Primary Care Dermatology and Skin Cancer Medicine, is uniquely qualified to assist with your skin spot concerns. If a skin spot appears suspicious, Dr Targett can perform a biopsy and have it checked by a pathologist.
Types of skin cancer
The two main types of non-melanoma skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).
Around 70% of non-melanoma skin cancers are BCCs. They usually develop on the skin with the most exposure to UV radiation like the arms, face and neck. BCCs tend to grow slowly and are less likely to spread to other parts of the body.
SCCs comprise approximately 30% of non-melanoma skin cancers and, if left untreated, can grow and spread quickly.
Fortunately, although BCCs and SCCs are the most common varieties of skin cancer, they are also the most treatable.
The other type of skin cancer is melanoma, which is the most serious type of skin cancer, it is also the least common form of skin cancer. Melanin cells are the pigment-producing cells responsible for giving us our skin colour. When these cells become cancerous it is known as melanoma. Melanomas may occur anywhere on the body. Symptoms usually include rapid growth or rapid changes to an existing mole.
The type of skin cancer treatment will depend on the stage of cancer. Skin cancer treatment may include; surgery, radiation, medication or even chemotherapy.
Skin cancer treatment
In some cases, the skin lesion causing concern is benign and no further treatment is needed. In the event that BCC or SCC is diagnosed and skin cancer treatment is necessary, there are a number of possible avenues, depending on the type of skin spots found and their location. The most common treatment options include surgery, and curettage and cautery.
Surgery is a common and effective skin cancer treatment option. After applying a local anaesthetic, your GP or dermatologist surgically removes the skin cancer and a margin of normal-looking tissue surrounding it. The wound is then closed with stitches and the margin is checked by a pathologist to ensure that all the cancerous tissue was removed. Further surgery may be required if cancer cells are found in the margin.
Curettage and Cautery
Curettage and cautery is a skin cancer treatment used to treat BCC and is usually performed by a dermatologist. Your skin cancer specialist will give you a local anaesthetic before scooping out the cancer cells with a curette, which is a spoon-like surgical instrument designed for scraping tissue. Next comes the cautery; a low-level heat is applied to stop the bleeding while also killing off any remaining cancerous cells. This procedure leaves a small, white scar.
Actinic Keratosis is a precancerous condition identified by patched of thick, crusty or scaly skin. These lesions form when the skin is exposed to UV light from the sun or tanning beds. The growths are more commonly seen in fair-skinned people. If these lesions are left untreated they may turn into a type of skin cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma. Treatment of these lesions at an early stage is recommended.
There are several treatment options available depending on the extent of the lesions.
- Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is recommended for the treatment of multiple AK lesions. This treatment involved applying a photosensitizer to the skin and then illuminating the skin under a strong light source.
- Topical creams may be applied to the lesions on a daily basis, but this usually requires treatments over a long period of time.
- Cryotherapy can be used for single lesions. Undesired hypopigmentation may occur at the treatment site. Cryotherapy kills the AK cells using liquid nitrogen.
It is important to have regular skin cancer screening checks to catch AK before it turns into skin cancer. If AK does turn into skin cancer, if caught early with close monitoring it can be cured.
How do you identify skin cancer?
You should become familiar with the “ABCDE” rule used to check for signs of melanoma. Melanoma is one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer.
How do you diagnose skin cancer?
Your doctor will be able to diagnose skin cancer by;
- Examining your skin to look for any suspicious lesions or changes to your skin. You will be able to assist your doctor by highlighting any changes that you have noticed in your skin.
- Your doctor may remove a sample of suspicious skin known as a skin biopsy. This biopsy is sent to the lab for further testing by a pathologist.
Dr Rahma Targett
Dr Rahma Targett is a General Practitioner(FRACGP), with a specialty in Cosmetic Medicine. She founded Advanced Cosmetic Medicine in 2016 and has since become well known as a trusted and in demand Cosmetic Physician in Adelaide. She has a Diploma in Dermoscopy and a Diploma in Aesthetic Medicine with the American Academy of Aesthetic Medicine. Dr Targett is a leader in her field and regularly attends Cosmetic conferences to keep up to date with modern aesthetic techniques. At advanced Cosmetic Medicine you can always be reassured that you will be welcomed and treated personally by Dr Rahma Targett.
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What are the first signs of melanoma?
The first signs of melanoma may present as a sore that does not heal. There may be a spread of pigment from a mole into the surrounding skin. There may be redness or swelling that extends beyond the mole’s border. Other signs may include, pain, itchiness or tenderness.
What is stage one melanoma?
There is a numbering system used to define how advanced melanoma is. Stage one indicates that the melanoma is at a very early stage. The melanoma is still contained within the skin and there is no sign that it has spread to the lymph nodes or elsewhere in the body.