Get a Skin Cancer Check
Skin Cancer in Australia
Australians have the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. With an incidence that is continuing to rise faster than any other form of cancer, with skin cancer accounting for 80% of all newly diagnosed cancers. Most Australians will develop a skin cancer during their lives.
While some skin lesions are benign eg. moles and may be required to be removed for cosmetic concerns. Cancerous lesions need definitive treatment, with surgery the most common and reliable method. People often request plastic surgical removal of these lesions to attain the best cosmetic outcomes.
How to recognise the signs of a Skin Cancer and take action!
Two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70 years old. More than 75% of people would not recognise the warning signs and recent reports indicate that people do not carry out the monthly checks recommended by dermatologists and doctors.
Many people said they do not feel confident they could recognise signs of a non-melanoma skin cancer. This type of cancer is characterised by the appearance of a lump or discoloured patch on the skin that does not heal, mostly appearing on the face, ears, hands, and shoulders.
Here are the signs and symptoms of different types of Skin Cancer
BCC – Basal Cell Cancers
Skin cancer can come in the form of a basal cell cancer (BCC), also referred to as a rodent ulcer.
Signs and symptoms of BCC’s, include a growth that:
- Looks smooth and pearly
- Appears as a firm, red lump
- Sometimes bleeds
- Develops a crust or scab
- Is itchy
- Never completely heals
- Develops into a painless ulcer
Around 75% of all skin cancers are BCC’s, which are typically slow-growing and almost never spread to other parts of the body. If treated at an early stage, this form of skin cancer is usually completely cured.
SCC – Squamous Cell Cancer
Another form of non-melanoma, skin cancer, SCC’s are a cancer of the keratinocyte cells, in the outer layer of the skin. They are mainly found on the face, neck, arms, back of hands and lower legs.
Signs to look for are:
- Look scaly
- Have a hard, crusty cap
- Are raised in the area of the cancer
- Feel tender to touch
- Bleed irregularly
A more serious cancer to look for is the Melanoma- the most deadly form of skin cancer.
Melanoma can appear anywhere on the body, but they most commonly appear on the back, legs, arms and face.
Though less common, they often spread to other organs in the body, making them more deadly. The most common sign is the appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing moles colour or size.
This is a great reminder that we should all be wearing sunscreen when outdoors and wearing a hat whenever possible.
You can have regular skin checks with your doctor, dermatologist or any skin clinics around Australia.
Who can get Skin Cancer & Why?
The primary cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet radiation – mostly from the sun (which we have with abundance in Australia), but also from artificial sources like tanning booths. Unfortunately our culture and desire for the perfect tan, increase in outdoors activities, and thinning of the ozone layer are behind the alarming rise in skin cancers.
Anyone can get skin cancer – no matter what your skin type, race or age. But your risk is greater if…
• Your skin is fair and freckles easily.
• You have light-coloured hair and eyes.
• You have a large number of moles, or unusual size or shaped moles.
• You have a family history of skin cancer.
• You spend a lot of time outdoors.
• You received therapeutic radiation treatments for adolescent acne
Get to know your skin and examine it regularly, if you notice an unusual growth or change on any part of your body, consult a plastic surgeon or a dermatologist.
Skin Cancer Treatment & Reconstruction by Plastic Surgeon Dr Scott Turner
Skin cancers can be treated by a number of methods, depending on the type of cancer and its location on your body. These range from simple creams through to surgical excision and reconstructive procedures. However most skin cancers are best removed surgically, as the cancer will be sent to the pathologist to ensure it has been completely removed.
Treatments of complex skin cancers, or those that occur in cosmetically sensitive areas, such as the face require considerable expertise to ensure the best outcome is achieved. Specialist Plastic Surgeons are highly regarded as the best at performing these procedures as they have been trained to analyse these problems and provide the best functional and cosmetic outcome.
After removal of a skin cancer a ‘defect’ may be left, as it may not be possible to simply stitch the wound closed. This requires reconstruction by employing many different plastic surgery techniques, the most common techniques including:
- Skin flaps
This involves moving some skin around to either fill a defect that is either too large or to achieve a better cosmetic outcome. Because the skin flap is usually moved from an adjacent area, the characteristics of the skin are closely matched and hence give a superior cosmetic outcome.
- Skin grafts
This involves taking some skin from another location to fill the defect. It relies on new blood vessels to grow into it the graft for it to ‘take’ and needs to be protected during this phase. The final cosmetic result takes much longer than with a skin flap.
No matter what type of skin cancer you had it is important to have a plan for follow-up of both of the cancer you had treated and detection of new lesions. This involves regular skin surveillance by yourself in conjunction with your doctors. If you notice any changes in your skin, or lumps appearing in your lymph nodes (glands), such as in your neck, armpits or groin, please let your doctors know.
For more information – visit Dr Turner’s Skin Cancer Surgery page