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Skin Cancer

Mission Cancer brings together a multidisciplinary team of specialists who provide comprehensive diagnosis, treatment and management of skin cancer. That means our skin cancer patients are able to visit with a number of our specialists in one location, who provide comprehensive and convenient care.

Our team of specialists include:

  • Fellowship-trained surgical oncologists
  • Medical oncologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Diagnostic radiologists
  • Pathologists
  • Genetic counselors
  • Palliative Care
  • Nurse navigators

What Is Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, and is the abnormal growth of cells in the skin. While there are many different types of skin cancer, they are typically categorized as nonmelanoma skin cancer and melanoma skin cancer. Most skin cancers are caused by UV radiation from sun exposure that causes the skin cells to become abnormal and attack the tissues around them.

Nonmelanoma skin cancer:

Basal cell carcinoma: Most nonmelanoma cancers are this type. It can damage deeper tissues, such as muscles and bones, and almost never spreads to other parts of the body.

Squamous cell carcinoma: This is a less-common type of skin cancer that often develops from a small rough spot that grows in sun-damaged skin. It can sometimes spread to other parts of the body.

Melanoma

Melanoma is a less-common type of skin cancer, but is the most serious. It typically looks like a flat mole with uneven edges and a shape that is not the same on both sides. Most melanomas show up as a new spot or skin growth, but they can form in an existing mole or other mark on the skin. While it can only start in the skin, it can spread to other parts of the body.

Risk Factors for Skin Cancer

The single greatest risk for skin cancer is from ultraviolet radiation. While it is usually caused by too much sun exposure, it can also be caused by tanning beds or sunlamps.

Other risk factors include:

  • Having light skin that sunburns easily
  • Age – your risk is higher if you are over 40
  • Gender – your risk is higher if you are male
  • Family history of skin cancer
  • Exposure to strong X-rays, chemicals or radioactive substances such as radium

Skin Cancer Symptoms

Skin cancer usually appears as a growth that changes in color, shape or size. It can be a sore that does not heal or a change in a mole or skin growth. These changes most often happen in areas that get the most sun, such as your head, neck, back, chest, shoulders or nose.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

  • Firm, pearly bump with tiny blood vessels that look spidery
  • Red, tender flat spot that bleeds easily
  • Small, fleshy bump with a smooth, pearly appearance, often with a depressed center
  • Smooth, shiny bump that may look like a mole or cyst
  • Patch of the skin that looks like a scar and is firm to the touch
  • Bump that itches, bleeds, crusts over and then repeats the cycle and has not healed in a few weeks

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

  • Persistent, firm, red bump on sun-exposed skin
  • Patch of skin that feels scaly, bleeds or develops a crust–it may get bigger over a period
  • Skin growth that looks like a wart
  • Sore that does not heal

Melanoma

The most important warning sign for melanoma is any change in size, shape or color of a mole, and can occur over a period of weeks to a month. The ABCDE system tells you what changes to look for:

  • Asymmetry – one half of the mole or skin growth doesn’t match the other half
  • Border irregularity – the edges are ragged, notched or blurred
  • Color – the color is not the same throughout the mole
  • Diameter – the mole or skin growth is larger than the size of a pencil eraser
  • Evolution – there is a change in the size, shape, symptoms, surface or color of a mole

Cancer Diagnosis

You will first meet your physician-led oncology team, who will conduct a physical, and your symptoms, medical history and family history will all be reviewed to determine if additional tests are needed. Your doctor will use a biopsy to find out if you have skin cancer, which is a procedure in which the doctor removes a small sample to determine if you have cancer, and if so, what kind it is. Our surgeons, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists work together in a multidisciplinary fashion to deliver the appropriate order and combination of therapies tailored to your unique needs.

If it is determined that you have breast cancer, a work-up will be completed in order to best direct treatment. You may receive additional tests to determine if the cancer has spread to your lymph nodes.

Skin Cancer Treatment

Skin cancer treatment continues to evolve more rapidly than ever, emphasizing the need for a commitment to a disease-focused approach. That’s why we deliver a multidisciplinary approach to treatment, bringing together surgical, medical and radiation oncologists with specialized expertise in treating skin cancer, all in one location. Whether you need single, dual or a combination of all three therapies, you can be confident that you are receiving the highest level of care.

Surgery

Surgery may be recommended to remove the cancer and lymph nodes in some cases. Mission partners with the region’s only fellowship-trained surgical oncologists, ensuring you have access to some of the most skilled surgeons in the region for the surgical treatment of skin cancer.

  • Excision: This is a procedure in which the surgeon removes the skin cancer along with a margin of healthy tissue around it to reduce the chance of recurrence. This may be used for both melanoma and nonmelanoma cancers.
  • Mohs micrographic surgery: This is a procedure in which the surgeon removes the skin cancer one layer at a time, checking each layer for cancer cells after it is removed. It is typically used for nonmelanoma cancers.
  • Lymph node dissection: This is a surgery to remove lymph nodes to see if they have cancer cells or to remove lymph nodes that are cancerous.
  • Sentinel lymph node biopsy: This is a procedure in which the surgeon removes the first lymph node that the cancer may have spread to from the tumor. If this lymph node does not have any cancer cells, you may not need to have other lymph nodes removed.

Other types of surgery for nonmelanoma skin cancer may include:

  • Curettage and electrosurgery
  • Cryosurgery
  • Laser surgery
  • Dermabrasion

Your doctor will carefully discuss your options with you and choose the best procedure for you.

Click here to find a surgical oncologist

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is a treatment that uses X-rays to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors. At Mission, our therapists specialize by tumor type. They use the latest technologies and treatments, including the CyberKnife Robotic radiosurgery system, and coordinate care with your surgeon, medical oncologist, navigator and primary care physician to ensure precise and accurate treatment.

Learn more about radiation oncology

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses drugs to destroy cancer cells, and may be used in combination with radiation therapy and surgery. At Mission, our medical oncologists are experts in the tumor-specific disease processes, treatments and research options.

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy is a treatment that uses drugs to attack specific targets or processes of cancer cells. It may be used alone, but is most often combined with other cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy. Targeted therapy only affects cancer cells and not the other cells in the body, and can stop them from growing or spreading by blocking cell signals.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy helps treat cancer by supporting the body’s immune system.

Learn more about medical oncology

Find a medical oncologist

Skin Cancer Support and Survivorship

We understand a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. That’s why we offer comprehensive support services to ensure we meet the educational, nutritional and psychological needs of our patients. Additionally, we offer a specialized leukemia support group for current patients, survivors and caregivers to provide support, discussion and community.

Click here to browse our support services