Due to a combination of ageing and environmental influences such as sun damage and UV exposure our skin is susceptible to a number of skin tumors & general damage.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal Cell Carcinomas (BCCs) or rodent ulcers are the commonest of all cancers in the BCCs are usually found on sun exposed areas such as the face and neck although can occur all over the body. They are slow growing and are often present for months or years. They do spread around the rest of the body and surgical excision remains the most effective way of removing these common skin tumors.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous Cell Carcinomas (SCCs) also occur most commonly in sun-exposed areas. Although they are less common than BCC's they can be more aggressive and occasionally spread to the lymph glands. Like BCC's, surgery remains the most effective means of removing these lesions.
Malignant Melanoma is a cancer of the cells that help to tan the skin. In contrast to BCC and SCC, melanoma can affect younger patients. The main signs are of a mole that is growing, changing shape, changing color, itching and bleeding. It can spread elsewhere around the body and an early detection can lead to improved outcomes. The treatment may involve both surgical removal of the melanoma but also staging of the lymph node basin in the form of a technique called sentinel node biopsy
Removal of skin lesions
Frequently skin lesions can be removed and closed directly with a scar that can be placed in a place that will give a good cosmetic result. Other methods of wound closure include the use of skin grafts and/or local flaps.
Skin Grafts are one of the most common methods for closing a wound after injury, or removal of tissue (for example after surgery for skin cancer). A skin graft is the technique of removing skin from one area of the body and placing it on another. The blood supply to the graft develops over a number of days to weeks. Depending upon what is involved, skin grafts take the form of either full-thickness grafts or split-thickness. Full-thickness Skin Grafts are whole pieces of skin and the site from where the graft is taken is closed directly leaving a scar in this area. They are commonly taken from behind the ear, the neck, the groin and the arm.
Split-thickness skin grafts are usually taken from the thighs and are thin shavings of skin that leave behind them an area similar to a graze. This area heals by itself although can take a number of weeks.
A flap is a piece of tissue that carries with it its own blood supply. One can utilize an area with excess skin and use it to move into the area needing to be reconstructed. The area where the flap is taken from is stitched and the resultant scar can be placed in a place that will allow the resultant scar to be less visible.
Sentinel node biopsy
This is a technique that can be used (particularly in melanoma) to determine whether there has been any spread to the lymph nodes. It requires a small scar in the lymph node basin. The lymph node is assessed pathologically and if negative can provide significant reassurance to patients.