Today's Big Q- Will My Skin Cancer Treatment Require Surgery-According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common form of all cancers. Around 3.5 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year with melanoma projected to account for 73,000 cases of skin cancer in 2015. Premier Surgical Associates surgical oncologist Dr. Paul S. Dudrick says, “90% of sun exposure occurs during the teenage years, thus for most people the window of opportunity for prevention has already passed. The most effective way to increase your chance of survival from skin cancer is early detection and adequate treatment.”

Surgery is the most common form of treatment for melanoma. Melanoma is a cancer that begins in the melanocytes, the pigment producing cells responsible for giving the skin its color. Melanoma can begin on any part of the skin even on those not normally exposed to the sun including the scalp, bottom of feet, genital, and anal areas. It is the most deadly form of skin cancer and most likely to spread to other parts of the body where it can prove more difficult to treat. In order to treat melanoma effectively, it must be removed with a wide margin of normal skin. If not, it is highly likely the cancer will return and be more aggressive than the previous occurrence.

Because melanoma is a pigment producing cell and not simply a skin cell, it can more readily develop the capacity to travel to other parts of the body. If melanoma is thicker than 1 mm the likelihood it has already spread to surrounding lymph nodes at the time of diagnosis increases. Surgery is needed to remove the tumor or biopsy site with an adequate margin of normal skin.

“We often hear concern from patients that wide excision surgery seems a drastic measure for something so small as a 1 mm melanoma,” says Dr. Dudrick. “Melanoma is a serious diagnosis and one you will need to monitor for life. For the best possible prognosis it is imperative we do our best to remove all of the cancer.”

A cancer diagnosis is difficult to accept and adding to the equation the possibility of treatment that could result in scars or disfigurement can be even more troubling. For example, a small 1 mm melanoma may result in an 8-inch or larger scar that is much wider and deeper than anticipated by the patient. The staff at Premier Surgical Associates understands these concerns and works to guide patients through treatment that offers the best possible outcome. When necessary, a skin graft may be placed where the melanoma was removed to provide the best aesthetic results.

In addition, other forms of skin cancer including sarcoma and soft tissue tumors, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma may require surgery as a part of treatment. Your options for surgery depend on the type of cancer, how larger the cancer is, and location on the body.

The surgeons at Premier Surgical Associates in Knoxville are certified by the American Board of Surgery and have specialized knowledge and skill relating to the diagnosis, pre-operative, operative, and post-operative management of surgical oncology issues, including skin cancer. Our experienced specialists offer a multidisciplinary approach to cancer care working to develop an individual plan of care for each patient. To learn more about surgical oncology at Premier Surgical Associates visit our website.