As an experienced New Jersey / Bergen County plastic surgeon, Dr. Robert Zubowski recognizes that the diagnosis of skin cancer raises a host of medical, aesthetic and psychological concerns. He strives to provide comprehensive treatments and create a supportive, friendly environment where his NJ skin cancer patients feel welcomed and completely taken care of. Dr. Zubowski believes that patient education is an important part of a successful skin cancer treatment. This page provides an overview of the most common skin cancer types, their symptoms and risk factors.
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. Fortunately, this type of skin cancer can be treated very successfully and normally does not affect any tissues or organs besides a small area of the skin. The main risk factor of basal cell carcinoma is repeated sun exposure and the use of tanning beds. This explains why basal cell carcinoma usually occurs on the exposed areas of the head and body – the face, ears, neck, scalp, shoulders and upper back.
The reason why basal cell carcinoma is sometimes diagnosed late is its varied appearance. Thus, this cancer can present itself as an open, oozing sore, a red patch on the face or body, a shiny bump, and elevated pink growth, or a scar-like area. It is extremely important to regularly inspect your skin and note any new bumps or growths as well as any changes in your existing moles and scars. If you notice any suspicious changes, schedule an appointment with a dermatologist or skin cancer specialist who will perform a skin cancer scan and determine whether the growth is cancerous or not. Often, the doctor will order a biopsy to establish a conclusive diagnosis.
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common skin cancer type. Similarly to basal cell carcinoma, this skin cancer tends to affect the face, ears, neck, arms and upper body. In addition, this cancer occurs relatively frequently on the lower lip. The main risk factor for squamous cell carcinoma is sun exposure. In addition, people who have had basal cell carcinoma are at an increased risk for developing squamous cell carcinoma.
Squamous cell carcinomas typically have a very distinctive appearance. They usually manifest themselves as rough, scaly patches that are prone to bleeding. The patches can be raised and they are usually red or brown in color. The size of squamous cell carcinomas varies from 1 mm to 1 inch in diameter. The diagnosis and treatment of squamous cell carcinoma is similar to that of basal cell carcinoma.
Melanoma is a relatively rare type of skin cancer. However, the mortality rate of melanoma is the highest among all types of skin cancer. The success of melanoma treatment largely depends on the time of diagnosis. If diagnosed early, melanoma can be successfully treated in 99 percent of cases. If melanoma is diagnosed when it has reached an advanced stage, the survival rate falls to 15 percent. The American Cancer Society estimates that 120,000 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed in the U.S. every year and about 8,700 of the diagnosed patients die.
An early diagnosis of melanoma requires regular skin inspections. Most doctors recommend that patients perform a self-exam once a month. This is especially important for people who are at an increased risk for melanoma: those with family history of skin cancer, people with many atypical moles and those with extensive sun damage due to years of sun exposure.
Melanoma typically presents itself as an asymmetrical, multi-colored spot. A tell-tale sign of melanoma is that the spot continues to increase in size over time. If you have noticed that a mole or sun spot has been increasing in size, schedule a consultation with your doctor immediately.
Non-typical moles are not skin cancers. However, sometimes they turn into skin cancer and therefore must be watched closely. In addition, people with a large number of atypical moles are generally considered at a higher risk for skin cancer.
An atypical mole is a mole which is irregular in color or shape. Any mole which is larger than 6 mm might also be considered atypical. In addition, if a mole occurs in a body area that is normally not exposed to sun (such as buttocks or under the breasts), the mole might also be considered atypical. If you have such moles, you should regularly perform skin self-exams and talk to your doctor if any mole changes its appearance.
As a thoroughly educated plastic surgeon, Dr. Zubowski can help you remain skin cancer-free. He can also help you improve the appearance of your skin after skin cancer treatment. To schedule a one-on-one appointment with Dr. Zubowski, please call his offices at (201) 261-7550 or click here.