Skin Cancer: Screening, Treatment & Reconstruction

Basal Cell, Squamous Cell and Melanoma

There are three major types of skin cancer: basal cell, squamous cell and melanoma.

The most common form is basal cell carcinoma. It is primarily found on the face or other exposed areas of the body. It is usually raised, translucent and pink, with pearly borders, and may crust or bleed as it enlarges. It has a tendency to grow very slowly and invade local structures such as the nose, lips or eyes. It almost never spreads (metastasizes) to any distant areas of the body but can cause significant local damage if not treated early. Early surgical cure is almost 99% effective.

Squamous cell carcinoma is usually found on exposed areas of the body, such as the scalp, ears and lips, but can occur elsewhere. It is usually raised, pink, has opaque patches that commonly ulcerate, or becomes crusty in the center. It has a greater tendency to metastasize than basal cell carcinoma, but again, if treated early, it has an excellent chance for complete cure.

Melanoma may arise on any area of the body. It is usually a brown-black or multicolored patch or plaque with an irregular border. It may originate in a preexisting mole but may occur as an isolated lesion. Any change in the appearance of a mole is highly suspicious. Melanoma has a high rate of metastasis if not treated early and is perhaps the most dangerous form of skin cancer.

If you have any moles or skin growths that you are concerned about, it is best to have your doctor examine these. Any growth that is suspicious should be biopsied to rule out the possibility of a cancer. Remember, if treated early, almost all skin cancers are curable.