Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States with more than one million skin cancers diagnosed annually. According to the NCI, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer over the course of a lifetime.
Skin cancer begins in the cells that make the pigment melanin. It may begin in a mole, but also can begin in other pigmented tissues, such as the eye or in the intestines. This cancer can be classified as either melanoma or nonmelanoma.
Melanoma accounts for about 3% of skin cancer cases, but it causes more than 75% of skin cancer deaths.
• Basal Cell Carcinoma - Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer with approximately one million cases diagnosed annually. Basal cell carcinomas are rarely fatal, but can be disfiguring if left unattended.
• Squamous Cell Carcinoma - Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common form of skin cancer. More than 250,000 cases are diagnosed each year.
Patients who have been diagnosed with BCC or SCC, may benefit from Mohs surgery. This “micrographic” procedure is used when skin cancer removal requires the most cosmetic solution.
Geisinger’s Department of Dermatology offers a continuum of care for cancer prevention and treatment. Many patients diagnosed with skin cancer are candidates for a revolutionary treatment called Mohs micrograft surgery. Mohs offers these patients the best chance for a cure.
Mohs is the only approach that combines removal of the skin cancer with immediate microscopic viewing and has proven to be the most effective way to remove certain skin cancers.
Other advantages of Mohs surgery include:
- Lowest incidence of skin cancer recurrence
- Success rate of up to 99%
- Performed in the doctor’s office without general anesthesia
- Reconstruction (if necessary) can be performed at the same time
Photodynamic therapy is another cutting-edge prevention and treatment option for skin cancer not available elsewhere in northeastern and central Pennsylvania. Photodynamic therapy uses a concentrated form of a chemical that naturally occurs in the body. The chemical is placed on sunspots, which are then exposed to a laser light. The treatment reduces or eliminates spots, helping to prevent future skin cancer.
Physician Team Leaders:
- Joseph A. Blansfield, MD, Surgical Oncology
- Christine E. Cabell, MD, Dermatology, Mohs Surgeon
- Mary A. Jacobs, MD, Dermatology, Mohs Surgeon
- Victor J. Marks, MD, Dermatology, Mohs Surgeon
- Mary Grace Petrick, MD, Dermatology, Mohs Surgeon
- Michael L. Ramsey, MD, Dermatology, Mohs Surgeon
The Geisinger Difference
Team Approach to Treatment
When a patient’s cancer is diagnosed as melanoma, a multidisciplinary team may be needed, especially if the melanoma is large or if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. At Geisinger, dermatologists, plastic surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, and head and neck surgeons work as a team. As a result, patients receive coordinated care in one location, resulting in better outcomes.
Whether you have been diagnosed with melanoma or non-melanoma (basal and squamous cell carcinomas) skin cancer, or are considered at risk, the dermatology specialists at Geisinger can offer you the most advanced treatment options available.
The warning signs of skin cancer include the following:
- A skin growth that increases in size and appears pearly, translucent, tan, brown, black, or multicolored
- A mole, birthmark, beauty mark, or any brown spot that:
- changes color
- increases in size or thickness
- changes in texture
- is irregular in outline
- is bigger than 6 mm or 1/4 inch, the size of a pencil eraser
- appears after age 21
- A spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab, erode, or bleed
- An open sore that does not heal within 3 weeks
About 90% of nonmelanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. Some advice for protecting yourself from developing skin cancer include the following:
- Seek the shade, especially between 10 a.m and 4 p.m.
- Do not burn
- Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses
- Use a sunscreen with a SPF 15 or higher every day
- Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside
- Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating
- Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of 6 months
- Examine your body head-to-toe every month.
- See your dermatologist every year for a professional skin exam
- Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths