Learning About Skin Cancer: Types and Treatments
“Skin cancer” is a term that can refer to many types of cancers originating in the skin. All skin cancers represent abnormal growth of cells that have some level of damage, causing them to grow abnormally. Identifying the type of skin cancer in question is critical to defining a program of treatment, and to predicting likely health outcomes.
If you are concerned about a skin lesion or irregularity, Dr. Jamie L. McGinness can help. Dr. McGinness is a Board certified dermatologist specializing in the treatment of skin cancer, specifically with Mohs surgery, an advanced, highly effective technique that has up to a 99% cure rate! In fact, Dr. McGinness is the only Fellowship-trained Mohs surgeon in the Metro East Illinois St. Louis area. Dr. McGinness does not offer “cookie-cutter”, one-size-fits-all treatment plans. Instead, he takes the time to get to know you and your medical history and background in order to ensure that the treatment approach he develops for you will have the greatest possible chances of success.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinomas are the most common type of skin cancer today, and often appear as red patches, open sores, or pearly bumps on the skin. These irregular growths are typically caused by over-exposure to sun, and usually do not spread (metastasize) beyond the original lesion. Although rarely life-threatening, basal cell carcinoma can grow deeper, invade surrounding or deeper structures, and develop into a permanent disfigurement if left unaddressed. Common signs of basal cell carcinoma include:
- A bleeding or weeping sore that does not heal
- A persistent patch of crusty, red, or irritated skin
- A shiny growth of any color
- A crater-like pink growth with a rolled edge
- A taut, scar-like area of skin
- A new non-resolving growth on the skin
Any of these signs should be examined by a clinician. If left untreated, basal cell carcinoma can cause serious cosmetic complications, and sometimes damage to nerve and muscle structures.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer, and like basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinomas are typically non-metastatic, but can cause serious disfigurements if left untreated. However, squamous cell carcinoma can metastasize and spread to other parts of the body and can lead to death. Fortunately, early detection and treatment of this type of skin cancer typically has a high rate of success, so outcomes are likely to be positive with a vigilant routine of self-examination and clinical follow-up examinations. Common signs of squamous cell carcinoma include:
- A crusty, scaly red patch that doesn’t heal, and may bleed
- A crater-like growth that may bleed, and tends to grow rapidly
- A crusty or bleeding open sore that doesn’t heal
- A growth, similar to a wart, that may crust and bleed
- A new non-resolving growth on the skin
Squamous cell carcinoma can grow wider and deeper, invade adjacent and deeper structures and can break away and spread to other parts of the body.
By far the most serious type of skin cancer, melanoma can be deadly. Often resembling moles, melanoma is typically dark in color and irregular in shape, however doesn’t have to be dark in color. Melanoma can also develop from existing moles, and anyone with more than multiple atypical moles on their body is at greater risk of developing melanoma. The appearance of an atypical mole, or a mole that does not have a uniform shape and matching edges, should be examined by a clinician at the soonest possible opportunity. Health outcomes for melanomas detected at the early stages are generally favorable, but the cancer can easily spread if left untreated. Melanoma can metastasize (spread to other parts of the body), such as the lymph nodes, liver, bones, and brain, where it is difficult to eradicate and often fatal. Common signs of melanoma include:
- A mole or mole-like growth with an asymmetrical shape
- A dark growth with irregular, or scalloped, edges
- A growth that contains variations in color within the same lesion
- A growth that is larger than a pencil eraser in diameter
- A growth that changes in size, shape, color or elevation
Due to the deadliness of this type of skin cancer, it is critically important to have an examination by an experienced clinician if you notice a growth that meets any of the above criteria. Similarly, anyone with high risk factors, such as a large number of existing moles, should have regular clinical examinations to ensure implementation of life-saving early detection, treatment, and prevention methods.
Contact Dr. Jamie L. McGinness
Dr. Jamie L. McGinness is a Board certified dermatologist and the only Fellowship-trained Mohs surgeon currently serving the Metro East Illinois St. Louis area. His dedication to excellence in patience care is backed by years of specialized training and coupled with the same compassion, caring, and personalized attention you expect from your family doctor. His goal is to work closely with you, your dermatologist (if you have one), and your primary care physician to develop a personalized course of dermatologic treatment designed to successfully address your specific health concerns.