By Dr. Renata Prado
Board-certified dermatologist & fellowship-trained Mohs surgeon
You receive a phone call from your dermatology practice that your biopsy results are back—it’s skin cancer. Now what?
First of all, you are not alone. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in humans. In fact, skin cancer affects more people than all other cancers… combined! The high prevalence of skin cancer means that a tremendous amount of research and effort is put into the prevention and treatment of this disease. At Vanguard, our dermatology practice diagnoses and treats thousands of skin cancer every year. The majority of skin cancer cases are treatable and curable.
Second, it is important to understand the type of cancer you have been diagnosed with. Non-melanoma skin cancers (most of them being basal cell carcinomas or squamous cell carcinomas) are often curable. Melanomas, the deadliest of all skin cancers, can also be cured if caught early.
What treatments are available for the treatment of skin cancers?
There are many different treatments for skin cancer. Your dermatologist will determine the best skin cancer treatment based on the type of skin cancer, its aggressiveness based on microscopic features, size, and location. Taking all these factors into account, your dermatologist may suggest treating your skin cancer with freezing technique, topical creams, scraping, and burning, or surgery.
Now that I have been diagnosed with one skin cancer, how can I find out if I have another?
Skin cancer is actually one of the easiest cancers to find and diagnose since it usually begins where you can see it. You can get skin cancer anywhere on your skin — from your scalp to the bottoms of your feet. Even if the area gets little sun, it’s possible for skin cancer to develop there. You can also get skin cancer in places that may surprise you, such as under a nail, on your genitals, or on a lip. The best way to find skin cancer is to examine yourself and to have regular skin checks. If you develop any new lesion or mole that is growing, bleeding, scabbing, scaly, changing color, or not healing, you should see your dermatologist. A board-certified dermatologist is trained to spot suspicious lesions when doing a full-body exam, which literally looks from head to toe. A dermatologist may also work with a dermatology physician assistant or dermatology nurse practitioner who has been trained to conduct skin cancer screenings.
Since skin cancer is so curable, do I need to worry about prevention?
Yes, it is true that most skin cancers are curable especially when diagnosed early. However, the treatment may involve surgery and result in a scar. More aggressive cases result in loss of function (such as loss of an eye), or a severe deformity (such as loss of an ear, requiring prosthesis, etc). These are rare but can happen. Advanced cases of all skin cancers can result in metastasis and death. It is estimated that more than 100,000 cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2020, with almost 7,000 deaths. More than 1 million cases of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, resulting in more than 15,000 deaths. Therefore, prevention definitely makes sense when talking about skin cancer, as it is relatively easy and proven to be effective.
How can I prevent skin cancers?
- Limit your UV exposure. Don’t use tanning beds and avoid the sun during peak hours of 10 AM to 2 PM. Both sunburns and accumulated sun exposure over time can cause actinic keratoses and skin cancer.
- Use sunscreen daily. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF of at least 30. Make it a daily habit to put on your sunscreen each morning to all exposed areas.
- Cover up. If you must be outdoors, covering up is the best protection. Wear a hat and clothing that has UV properties to protect your skin.
Dr. Renata Prado is a board-certified Colorado Springs dermatologist. She is fellowship-trained in Mohs Micrographic Surgery and specializes in skin cancer surgery. Dr. Prado is part of Vanguard’s Colorado Springs dermatology practice in Briargate and Broadmoor.
Vanguard Skin Specialists is a Colorado dermatology practice that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer. We have highly trained dermatology providers who conduct skin cancer screenings, a dermatopathologist and lab on-site for fast diagnosis, Mohs surgeons who provide the highest cure rate for most skin cancers, and plastic surgeons for the best cosmetic result. Our multi-disciplinary team is here to give you peace of mind after a skin cancer diagnosis. We have three offices in Colorado Springs, as well as locations in Canon City, Pueblo, and Woodland Park.