We know the “C” word can be scary but at RefinedMD, we practice #FCancer. But did you know that one in five Americans will develop some type of skin cancer before the age of 70? It’s a lot more common than you think. Melanoma is just one type of skin cancer, but it’s the deadliest of any of the cancers. However, all types of skin cancer are also the easiest to treat when caught and diagnosed early. Less dangerous types of skin cancer include basal cell carcinoma, Merkel cell carcinoma, sebaceous carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. The only way to know if you have skin cancer is with a biopsy. These are quick, easy, and virtually painless procedures. Fear of the findings should never stop you from having your skin checked annually. We invite you to meet Dr. Steven Swengel and give RefinedMD a call and take the first step in skin care health.
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How Skin Cancer Starts
Technically, skin cancer is an uncontrolled growth of one of the skin cell types. It almost always presents as a suspicious mole, but not always. If the growth continues unchecked, it can spread to the bloodstream and lymphatic system. Once it spreads, it becomes much more dangerous.
Skin Cancer “Triggers”
Skin cancer is most common in areas that are often exposed to the sun like the face, neck, and arms. Those UV rays can really do a number on you, whether it’s from the sun or tanning beds. Using sunscreen whenever you’re exposed to the sun, hats, and long-sleeved clothing form the foundation of skin cancer protection.
Those with a lighter skin color, family or personal history of skin cancer, and who are regularly exposed to the sun are at a higher risk of skin cancer. If you have a history of sunburns, especially as a child, you’re at a higher risk. Skin that freckles, reddens, or burns easily is more vulnerable to skin cancer, as are those with a lot of moles, have blonde or red hair, or have light-colored eyes. However, those popping that melanin can also develop skin cancer. It can happen to anyone.
Before skin cancer, there’s pre-cancer, which can present as actinic keratosis. It begins as scaly, rough bumps. These skin abnormalities can turn into squamous cell carcinoma if not addressed. Be on the lookout for new growths or changes in the skin in between your annual skin checks. Since not all sun damage is related to cancer, yearly skin exams are essential for peace of mind. Sometimes the skin does funky things. Whether it’s cancerous or not is impossible for anyone but a dermatologist to tell.
If you do need to have a mole biopsied, Dr. Swengel trained at the American College of Mohs Surgery and was head of the Mohs Department with Kaiser Permanent. Mohs surgery is the most advanced and effective means of removing cancerous cells in a single appointment. This in-office treatment lets patients wait while the removed mole is checked in the lab for clear margins. If margins aren’t clear, more of the affected area is removed for re-testing during the same visit. This process continues until the patient can leave cancer-free with all-clear borders.
However, before patients leave, the excision is reconstructed to minimize wounds. These tiny wounds heal by secondary-intention and heal up on their own. Larger wounds may require stitches. Supersized wounds may need a skin graft for effective healing. In very rare occasions, the patient may be referred to a reconstructive surgical specialist. The top goal is patient safety, but looking good after that close call is important, too. Schedule your peace of mind appointment with Dr. Steven Swengel, also known as a skin check, by calling RefinedMD at (408) 688-2082.