Skin Cancer Surgery

Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world, and youthful exposure to the sun can lead to skin cancer manifesting later in life. Accepting a skin cancer diagnosis can be difficult, especially if the tumour is located where cancer removal will result in noticeable scarring. Even though most skin cancers are not malignant, they can become so over time and should be removed as soon as possible.

Depending on the cancer type and size, there are specific removal methods, including reconstructive surgery, to provide the best possible outcomes. Many minor skin cancers can be treated on-site using only a local anaesthetic.

For more aggressive cancers, a biopsy may be undertaken prior to removal, followed by reconstructive surgery. Dr Laniewski offers expert advice regarding surgical options for reconstruction, and as much as possible, will align scarring with your natural body shape or facial features.

SKIN CANCER TYPES

  • Basal cell cancer: This is the most common type of skin cancer, and is also the least serious. Basal cell cancer rarely spreads, and typically grows slightly before ulcerating and healing. It will gradually get bigger with each successive ulceration and healing phase, and if removed promptly scarring will hardly be noticeable.
  • Squamous cell cancer: These cancers are the second most common. They generally appear as a scaly growth on the skin with a tendency to bleed and enlarge. Squamous cell cancers rarely spread when they are treated early. Consult with your surgeon if you have any concerns.
  • Melanoma: This is the most dangerous and aggressive form of skin cancer. Skin lesions that change in colour, shape or size need to be dealt with immediately. When caught in the pre-malignant stage, melanoma can be cured, but as the lesion becomes more widespread, successful cure rates drop off accordingly.
  • Moles: Although not cancerous by nature, moles create an environment where cancer cells can reside and flourish. There are several signs denoting the change from a mole to a melanoma, including a change of shape, irregularity of the borders, colour variegation and an increase in size.

REMOVAL PROCEDURES FOR SKIN CANCER

Cancer removal can be a simple or complex procedure. Depending on the surgery required you will be given local or general anaesthesia. Removal of small non-invasive cancer only takes a few minutes using liquid nitrogen (dry ice) spray to freeze the growth. It is then covered with a band aid and will drop off within a few days, leaving even skin and a tiny scar. Small lesions are often removed by excision. This is a simple surgery where cancer removal and skin closure are performed in conjunction.

However, skin cancer can be deceiving. What looks like a small problem on the skin’s surface could only be the tip of the iceberg, with the bulk of the cancer active deep under the skin. The underlying cancer can cover a large region and have borders that are not noticeable by external perception. Your plastic surgeon might apply a technique called Mohs surgery, allowing the removed lesion to be microscopically examined prior to closing the wound. It’s essential in skin cancer surgery to remove 100 percent of the malignant tumour, and your surgeon might have to continue removing more tissue until there is a clear margin of unaffected tissue surrounding the wound.

RECONSTRUCTIVE SURGERY

The wound caused by skin cancer removal is reliant on the cancer itself, which can occur anywhere on the face or body. Plastic surgery is a precise medical practice, but as with any surgery you will be left with some scarring. Every effort is made during reconstruction to avoid unsightly disfigurement, and several methods are used.

In larger lesions, healthy adjacent tissue is used by forming a flap of skin and repositioning it over the wound. The benefit of this method, especially for facial cancers, is in using skin that is of the same colour and texture as that which has been removed, creating a less noticeable scar that follows the natural curve of the face.

RECOVERY

Sutures are removed after one week, or longer in more complex situations. The incision site might be sore and drain small amounts of fluid after surgery. Make sure to keep the site clean and well protected from additional injury, and limit any movement that will add stress to the wound during the healing phase. Keep out of the sun during wound healing, as exposure can result in pigment discolouration or uneven scar tissue. In time the scar will lighten to a colour that more closely resembles that of the surrounding skin.

Skin cancer is a condition that should not be taken lightly. Fortunately, Dr Laniewinski also takes your needs seriously, and has the appropriate qualifications and experience to provide a comfortable service and outstanding results.