Skin cancer is the most common cancer worldwide and is typically divided into melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC). The incidence of NMSC and melanoma has been steadily increasing worldwide. The South African population is at a particularly high risk of skin cancer due to the country’s geographical position and level of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) as well as the increased sun exposure due to occupational and recreational activities. Skin cancer screening is vital in the early diagnosis of skin cancer.
The 2 most common types of non-melanoma skin cancer are called “basal cell carcinoma” and “squamous cell carcinoma.” Most forms of non-melanoma skin cancer can be easily treated because they grow slowly. But if not treated, some non-melanoma skin cancers can become large or spread inside the body and may even be fatal.
Melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer. Melanoma can occur anywhere on the skin, including the back and other hard-to-see areas. It can also occur on the skin lining the mouth, nose, and genitals. When it is not treated, melanoma can spread to organs inside the body. Melanoma often looks like a brown or black mole or birthmark.
It is useful to remember the abnormal features of melanoma by thinking of the letters A, B, C, D, and E.
Asymmetry – One half can look different than the other half.
Border – It can have a jagged or uneven edge.
Colour – It can have different colors.
Diameter – It is larger than the eraser on the end of a pencil.
Evolution – Its size, color, or shape can change over time.
If you are concerned about skin cancer you should see your dermatologist. Dermatologists are specialists of the skin and are trained to screen and identify skin cancers early.
Your dermatologist will do a full body skin examination and may also use dermoscopy. Dermoscopy is a specialised devise that look at the skin at a microscopic level and allows for dermatologist to identify changes within skin lesions before they become obvious to the naked eye.
Dermatologists can also do mole mapping allowing for documentation of your existing moles and to identify any new moles. Dr. de Wet uses the latest in mole mapping and dermoscopy technology. The Fotofinder medicam is the gold standard in digital dermoscopy. If skin cancer is suspected your dermatologist may recommend a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.
Read more about screening and surveying the skin for signs of skin cancer.
When detected early, most BCCs can be treated and cured. Prompt treatment is vital, because as the tumor grows, it becomes more dangerous and potentially disfiguring, requiring more extensive treatment.
If you’ve been diagnosed with a small or early BCC, a number of effective treatments can usually be performed on an outpatient basis, using a local anesthetic with minimal pain. Afterwards, most wounds can heal naturally, leaving minimal scarring.
SCCs of the skin can be cured when found and treated early. Treatment should happen as soon as possible after diagnosis, since more advanced SCCs of the skin are more difficult to treat and can become dangerous, spreading to local lymph nodes, distant tissues and organs.
If you’ve been diagnosed with an SCC, there are several effective treatments that can usually be performed on an outpatient basis. The choices available to you depend on the tumor type, size, location and depth, as well as your age and overall health.
Ask your dermatologist to clearly explain the options that might work best for you, including details about the risks and benefits.
While melanoma is one of the most dangerous forms of skin cancer, when diagnosed and treating at an early stage the prognosis is very favourable. Promising new treatment options are also available for more advanced cancers, improving quality of life and increasing survival rates for patients with advanced melanoma. If you’ve been diagnosed, your treatment choices depend on the stage of the disease, the location of the tumor and your overall health.
Ask your dermatologist to clearly explain the options that might work best for you, including details about the benefits and risks. Dr. Johann de Wet is a top skin specialist in Stellenbosch and he specializes in skin cancer screening and all forms of skin cancer treatment in Stellenbosch as well as skin cancer surgery. His medical dermatology services extend from the Cape Winelands to Stellenbosch and Somerset West.
The month of May 2020 was skin cancer awareness month.