Skin cancer is common – and commonly underestimated. If left untreated, the disease can cause disfigurement and even death.
“As a dermatologist, a large portion of my practice is devoted to skin cancer recognition, prevention and treatment,” says Dermatologist Charles M. Moon, MD, at Advanced Dermatology of Southeast Missouri. “In a given week, we treat numerous nonmelanoma and precancerous skin lesions. Even more worrisome is the increasing number of melanomas that we diagnose. Every week, I diagnose at least two melanomas, some of which have spread or metastasized.”
Treatments for skin cancer vary depending on what kind of cancer it is. “The majority of treatments are surgical,” says Moon. “For melanoma, when caught early, it’s uniformly surgical. If you catch melanomas early, and you excise them with appropriate margins, the cure rate is actually excellent. In advanced stages, when there has been metastasis, there are some newer forms of chemotherapy that may be employed. Some less aggressive forms of skin cancer can be treated with topical creams. In some patients who are not ideal surgical candidates or have a very large skin cancer, radiation therapy may be used.”
The earlier skin cancer is detected and treated, the better the outcome will be. That’s why getting screened is crucial. “How frequently you need to be screened is based on your skin type, your sun exposure history and your history of melanoma in the family,” says Moon. “If you’re a person with red hair and blue eyes, freckles and a history of significant sun exposure, you probably need to be screened sooner rather than later.” Regardless of your skin type, however, if you have any concern about a spot, it doesn’t hurt to get it checked out. Saint Francis Cancer Institute, in conjunction with Advanced Dermatology of Southeast Missouri, offers free skin cancer screenings each spring.
For more information about melanomas, call Saint Francis Cancer Institute at 573-334-2230.