Skin Cancer

Both Dr O’Connor and Dr Gibson treat a large number of skin cancers. For most skin cancers, the treatment is surgical. We offer state of the art care including Mohs micrographic surgery (performed by Dr O’Connor) when indicated. In many cases a diagnosis can be made based on clinical appearance. A biopsy may be recommended to confirm a diagnosis. Once the diagnosis has been confirmed, we can discuss treatment options and make recommendations. These recommendations may vary depending on the size and type of skin cancer, the location on your skin, as well as your medical history. There are three main types of skin cancer:

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer. Risk factors include history of sun exposure (including childhood exposure) and skin type. People with fair skin are more likely to develop BCC than those with darker skin types but those with dark skin are not immune. A BCC may have several appearances from a pink bump that resembles a pimple, to a white patch with a scarlike appearance, or a sore that won’t heal. They are most commonly seen on sun exposed skin. Though they may become quite large if left untreated, BCCs are not likely to metastasize, or spread to other parts of the body.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common type of skin cancer. The risk factors are the same as BCC, but also include those with a history of immune suppression, such as a patient with an organ transplant. An SCC may appear as a scaly patch, or a rough bump or nodule that may resemble a wart. SCC may also appear as a sore that will not heal. SCC can be cured if treated early. Though not common, SCC may metastasize if left untreated or if it is a particularly aggressive tumour.

Melanoma is the least common type of skin cancer. However, it is also the most dangerous. Melanoma often appears as a new or changing mole. Those with a family history of melanoma are at increased risk for this tumour, as are those with a history of frequent sunburn, excessive UV exposure including tanning beds, fair skin type and those with many or abnormal moles. The ABCDEs provide a guide for evaluating your moles. If you develop an irregular or worrisome mole, this should be evaluated immediately. If detected and treated early, surgery is curative. If left untreated melanoma may metastasize and be fatal.

Preventative measures can greatly reduce your risk of skin cancer. Practice safe sun!

  • Minimize exposure between 10am and 3pm when the sun’s rays are strongest.
  • Wear a broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher every day. This includes cloudy days, rainy days and winter days. Wear SPF 30 plus on sunny days.
  • Apply a broad spectrum sunscreen 30 minutes before sun exposure. Reapply every 2 hours. Use one ounce (2 Tablespoons) of sunscreen per application.
  • Wear protective clothing including hats, shirts and sunglasses. Some companies make clothing rated for sun exposure that provide exceptional protection.
  • Avoid tanning beds! Their use may lead to skin cancer, wrinkles, brown spots and rough skin.
  • Examine your skin monthly. If you discover a suspicious lesion, contact your GP or Dermatologist.

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