Skin cancer is very prevalent in Australia, and in Queensland we unfortunately have some of the highest rates in the world. As a Plastic Surgeon working in Brisbane, a large proportion of work is done to treat skin cancer in its various forms. This includes the more common Basal Cell and Squamous Cell Carcinoma's ( BCC and SCC), as well as Melanoma and all of the more unusual and uncommon lesions.
Signs and Symptoms
Sometimes it is very clear and obvious that a skin cancer has formed, but sometimes it can be very difficult to pick up. Often a small pink, brown, black or flesh coloured lump will form, but sometimes the lesion can be flat and look almost like normal skin. Any new lesion or blemish that forms and lasts more than a couple of weeks should be examined by at least a General practitioner, or possibly a Dermatologist or Plastic Surgeon if you have an appointment with a specialist pending.
Quite often the area will be itchy or irritated, or might bleed very easily. Pain or tenderness is usually a later feature of skin cancers, but can be present early on depending on the site on the body and the type of cancer. Any lesion that changes either in appearance or in symptoms should be examined by a doctor.
Diagnosis of Skin Cancer
Often the diagnosis has al;ready been made by a local GP or another specialist. You may have already seen a Dermatologist prior to your consultation with Dr Rowe. In either case, Dr Rowe will examine you and closely inspect the area of concern. If a Biopsy has been done where a small sample of the area is sent for examination by a pathologist, this will speed up the treatment process immensely.
There are many treatments available for certain skin cancer types, but generally the gold standard is surgical removal. Your treatment plan will be discussed in detail with you at your consultation, and if there are other treatment modalities which are suitable these will also be discussed. If you require non-surgical treatment you may be referred to another specialist for consultation.
Occassionally following your surgical treatment you will require adjuvant therapies - other treatments to to ensure a good outcome. This may be radiation therapy or more rarely chemotherapy. in cases affecting hands or occassionally lower legs there will be a role for treatment from and occupational therapist or a physiotherapist. This is decided on a case by case basis and will be organised for you.
The length of follow up depends on the type of skin cancer, the site of the cancer, and the treatment that has been required. Most patients are seen at around the 6 week point following surgery, and from there, longer term follwo up will be discussed and organised. Other treatment modalities such as radiation will often have been started before this time, and this will delay surgical follow up