Skin cancer survival rate and demographic
Melanoma and non-melanoma cancers are the two categories of all skin cancers. For all skin cancers, the rate of contraction increases with age. In other words, the peak rate for both cases is in both men and women aged 90+
Contracting melanoma is relatively uncommon when compared with its other forms. In fact, melanoma only consists of around 9.7% of all cases. However, melanoma is the most severe form of skin cancer because of how quickly it can metastasise (spread) to other lymph nodes (organs/other parts of your body).
Despite its aggression, melanoma has an 87% survival rate, which is high compared with other forms of cancer. However, its survival rate can drop significantly in the later stages of melanoma.
Non-melanoma cancers amount to 90.3% of cases. There are two often reoccurring forms of non-melanoma cancers. BCC (Basal Cell Carcinoma) and SCC (Squamous Cell carcinoma). Even with such high case numbers, their survival rate is 99.3% making this disease relatively tame, especially when treated early. Unlike melanoma, both BCC and SCC are the most common in white men.
What is Melanoma?
There are two types of melanoma skin cancer known as primary and secondary melanoma.
Primary melanoma arises through genetic or environmental means. In comparison, secondary melanoma develops from the spread of primary melanoma.
Primary Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that manifests from the pigmented cells known as melanocytes. Melanocytes produce the skin’s pigment through melanin production.
One of the most common causes of melanoma is exposure to too many ultraviolet rays through sunlight. Ultraviolet rays are also produced from sun-beds, increasing the risk of contracting melanoma.
One of the earliest signs of developing melanoma is the change in colour of one of your existing moles or the formation of a new mole or lesion which has a contrasting colour with the rest of your skin. New melanoma moles typically appear brown or black. However, a new mole may emerge with a loss of pigmentation, leading to a pale or red colour.
Melanoma severity is classified using a staging system. This staging system is split into four parts, from stage one to stage four. In stages one and two, the melanoma is relatively mild, having a difference in size and thickness, but remains relatively small and, more importantly, has yet to spread to other parts of your skin.
In stages three and four, cancer has spread to deeper layers of the skin known as lymph nodes. You can find lymph nodes in the body’s lymphatic system, which is part of our body’s immune system. The new development of skin cancers (in the lymph nodes) is secondary melanoma.
The depth and progression of secondary melanoma allow doctors to distinguish between stage three and four melanoma.
You may discover a later case of skin cancer manifesting in lymph nodes after an apparent lump emerges from underneath the skin layer. Its size may differ between patients with stage three and stage four melanoma.
Occasionally, a primary melanoma is detected purely due to someone developing enlarged lymph nodes with no history of a skin lesion. This form of melanoma is known as a primary occult.
You could also be diagnosed with a later stage of melanoma if you discover melanoma deposits in the skin surrounding the pre-existing primary melanoma (micro-satellites).
What does skin cancer look like?
Melanoma, BCC, and SCC are the three main types of skin cancer, and all three have distinct differences in their appearance.
Melanoma usually appears as a newly formed mole and is often referred to as a skin cancer mole. It can also spawn from a disfigured mole already present. This mole can become irritant and may even bleed if picked at.
BCC skin cancer, otherwise known as Basal cell carcinoma, may appear as an apparent shiny lump on the skin. These are harmless and often left unattended for long periods as they are commonly mistaken for scabs.
SCC skin cancer, also known as Squamous cell carcinoma, will often appear as a dry red lump. They can also be quite painful if touched, commonly emerging due to overexposure to UV from the sun.
What is Micrographic surgery for skin cancer?
Micrographic (MOHS) surgery is a precise skin cancer treatment used to remove non-melanoma cancers surgically.
During MOHS surgery, thin layers of cancer-containing skin are progressively removed and examined until only cancer-free tissue remains.
MOHS is a specialised type of surgery that aims to keep as much non-cancer-affected skin intact.
Micrographic surgery is only valid for people who have non-melanoma cancers, such as BCC and SCC.
Patients who have previously had failed surgeries or treatments like radiotherapy typically undergo Micrographic surgery.
What happens during Micrographic surgery?
The surgeon will begin by drawing around the cancer cells with a marker.
A local anaesthetic will be applied so you will remain awake but will not feel pain.
The surgeon will then remove all the cancer cells and a minor amount of healthy cells known as a healthy margin.
The surgeon will then send the cancer-affected cells to a laboratory technician to confirm if all of the cancer was removed (during excision) from your skin. After which, The surgeon will inform you if you can leave.
If there are more cancer cells, the surgeon will repeat the procedure until they remove all cancer cells.
The doctor will then dress your wound if it is small enough. If your wound is more extensive, you may qualify for stitching or plastic surgery to repair it.
You may experience some bruising and bleeding. In some rare cases, your wound may become infected. Fortunately, aftercare is included in your treatment package, meaning follow-up appointments are typical to track your progression. Our surgeons can treat any immediate complications with no additional charge. In other words, lesion surgery is simply the most reliable treatment if you are looking for a permanent solution.
What is cryotherapy for skin cancer?
Cryotherapy is a treatment which typically uses liquid nitrogen to remove skin lesions like cancer by freezing them.
Cryotherapy is commonly used to treat relatively benign and low-grade forms of skin cancer. For example, simple forms of BCC.
What happens during cryotherapy treatment?
Usually applied using a spray gun, liquid nitrogen is administered to your lesioned skin, freezing it. After one to two minutes, your affected skin should return from a pale white colour to its normal pigmentation as it thaws out. Your surgeon may repeat this process if the lesion is large enough.
In the next few days, a scab will form. This scab should take one to two weeks to fall off, leaving the treated area looking relatively normal. A full recovery is common after some time. However, it is possible for some minor scarring or discolouration to appear. Depending on the nature of the lesion, more than one cryotherapy treatment may be necessary until the surgeon removes all skin cancer from your skin.
Your doctor will provide advice on how to care for your wound while it is healing and may suggest using vaseline, patting the wound dry if it becomes wet and advising you to refrain from picking the scab, all to reduce the chances of any scarring.
What is excision for skin cancer?
Excision is a procedure where a surgeon physically removes a skin lesion to stop the spread of skin cancer and reduce the chances of recurrence.
Excision is typically your best chance at completely curing all skin cancers at stages one or two.
Furthermore, excision surgery can also eliminate the in-transit or satellite lumps of melanoma in the skin near your primary melanoma scar.
If melanoma has spread to internal organs but remains in few deposits, removing them with excision surgery may be possible.
What happens during excision?
The lump or lesion is surgically removed and sent for a histological diagnosis.
After Which, you will have the option of incorporating a wide local excision or WLE. During this procedure, an estimated margin of 2 cm is taken in addition to your first procedure (despite possibly not being cancerous) to minimise the chances of recurrence of melanoma. Your doctor will discuss how much skin is necessary to extract, as the recommended margin depends on the location and thickness of the melanoma.
The type of scar/s will depend on the location and the type of surgical technique required. After WLE, you may have a similar scar compared with your first procedure. However, it will be more prominent in size. Some scars can be more complicated due to requiring the implementation of skin grafts.