Surgical Dermatology

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Learn about Moh’s Surgery for skin cancer.
Call us at (720) 851-5200 or request an appointment online to schedule a consultation with Dr. Christopher Messana.

Skin Cancer Q & A

The number of skin cancers treated in the US every year is increasing dramatically. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, greater than 5 million non-melanoma skin cancers are treated each year and this number is increasing. Over the past 3 decades, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined.  One in five Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetime.

Early detection is critically important.  We are here to help detect skin cancer early by performing a careful skin exam in our office.  We provide expert skin exams in an efficient and painless manner.  An expert skin exam could potentially save your life.  After completing his dermatology residency, Dr. Messana completed a Mohs Surgery and Dermatologic Oncology fellowship at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic.  Dr. Christopher Messana has the highest level of training and expertise in diagnosing and treating skin cancer and has successfully treated thousands of skin cancers.

What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer refers to abnormal cell growth in the skin. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer people develop, and it usually develops on areas of the skin that receive the greatest amount of sun exposure.  However, skin cancer can also occur on skin that doesn’t receive significant sun exposure.  Skin cancer treatments are usually successful when skin cancer is diagnosed and treated early.  The longer a skin cancer grows and progresses, the harder it can be to effectively treat. Untreated skin cancer has the potential to spread to other parts of the body and ultimately cause death.

What types of skin cancer are there?

The most common types of skin cancer include basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is an abnormal, uncontrolled growth that arises in the skin’s basal cells, which line the deepest layer of the epidermis (the outermost layer of the skin). BCCs often look like open sores, red patches, pink growths, shiny bumps, or scars and are usually caused by a combination of cumulative and intense, occasional sun exposure.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common form of skin cancer.  It is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells arising from the squamous cells in the epidermis, the skin’s outermost layer. It is sometimes called cutaneous (related to the skin) squamous cell carcinoma (CSCC) to differentiate it from different kinds of SCC elsewhere in the body.

SCCs often look like scaly red patches, open sores, warts or elevated growths, which may crust or bleed. They can become disfiguring and can be deadly if allowed to grow. More than 1 million cases of squamous cell carcinoma are diagnosed each year in the U.S., which translates to about 115 cases diagnosed every hour.  More than 15,000 Americans die each year from the disease.

Most SCC is caused by cumulative, long-term sun exposure (ultraviolet radiation) over the course of a lifetime.  Daily year-round sun exposure, intense exposure in the summer months or on sunny vacations and the UV produced by indoor tanning devices all add to the damage that can lead to SCC. Experts believe that indoor tanning is contributing to an increase in cases among young women, who tend to use tanning beds more than others do.

SCCs may occur on all areas of the body, including the mucous membranes and genitals, but are most common in areas frequently exposed to the sun, such as the external ears, lips, face, scalp, neck, hands, fingers, arms and legs. The skin in these areas often reveals telltale signs of sun damage, including wrinkles, pigment changes, freckles, “age spots,” loss of elasticity and broken blood vessels.

What are the symptoms of skin cancer?

Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma symptoms typically include scaly lesions or lesions that bleed. These lesions usually don’t heal. Other possible signs of these skin cancers include bumps that don’t disappear. Signs of melanoma include changes in the color or size of moles, dark lesions on certain parts of the body, and brown spots covered in darker specks. Those who have any signs or symptoms of skin cancer should seek a medical diagnosis so treatment can begin early if needed.

How is skin cancer treated?

Treatment options for skin cancer depend on the type of cancer a patient has.  At Elevated Dermatology and Skin Cancer Surgery Center, treatment options for skin cancer include surgical procedures to remove the skin cancer (Mohs surgery and surgical excision) and topical therapy.  Mohs surgery involves removing the cancer cells in stages until all cancerous cells are removed. Mohs surgery allows cancerous tissue to be removed while preserving the greatest amount of normal surrounding tissue.  A surgical excision is the removal of skin cancer utilizing a safety margin of normal-appearing skin around the cancer. Melanomas are removed by a surgical excision with a wider margin.  Some melanomas are best removed with a procedure called a staged excision with delayed repair.

If you would like to read more about skin cancer, Dr. Messana recommends these helpful and reliable websites:

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Request an appointment at our Parker, CO office. To schedule by phone, call us at 720-851-5200.
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