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Skin cancer and melanoma

Australia has the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world. It is estimated that two thirds of people living in Australia will be diagnosed with a skin cancer before the age of 70.

Skin cancers are almost uniformly due to exposure to ultraviolet radiation (the sun). Fortunately, skin cancers are readily amenable to treatment in their early stages. The most common skin cancers in Australia are squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and melanoma. In addition, there are many rarer types of skin and subcutaneous tumours that are a unique area of expertise for plastic surgeons.

Diagnosis of a skin cancer can usually be made by clinically examining the concerning spot. However, in cosmetically sensitive areas and when the diagnosis is uncertain, a small biopsy will be performed under local anaesthetic. This is done in the procedure room of our facility. Definitive surgical treatment of a skin cancer involves excising the lesion with a margin of “normal” skin around it. This is to ensure that the tumour is removed completely and to prevent it from recurring. The margin varies for the type of tumour and the area of the body involved.

While skin cancer is the most common cancer in Australia, the appropriate management and reconstruction of skin cancer defects in cosmetically sensitive areas is specifically the area of expertise for  plastic and reconstructive surgeons. The goal of our surgeons is to remove the tumour completely whilst preserving the natural appearance of your face.

Plastic surgeons have special training and techniques to ensure that cancers are completely removed and that the cosmetic result is the most subtle it can be. We will ensure that every effort is made for you to look as though you have never had surgery.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)

These are usually pink, round, flat or slightly raised plaques with surface scaling or ulceration. Typical symptoms include a persistent, painless or painful pink spot. SCCs can occur anywhere on the body, but have a predilection for areas of sun exposure on the arms, legs and face. If left untreated, SCCs can invade along and through nerves, lymphatics and bone.

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)

These tumours variably present as pink plaques or fleshy bumps that can bleed. BCCs grow slowly but deeply, and can penetrate through to bone. They are the most common type of skin cancer in Australia.

Melanoma

Melanomas are tumours of the pigment cells (melanocytes) of our skin. Risk factors for developing a melanoma include a history of previous skin cancers, blistering sunburns as a child, a family history of melanoma and numerous dysplastic moles. If treated early, patients with a melanoma have a very high survival rate.

Dr Amira Sanki has additional training in the treatment of melanoma, with many internationally presented and published articles in this field. Patients with complex melanomas have the benefit of having their history presented by Dr Sanki at a melanoma specific multipdisciplinary meeting, where Sydney’s expert melanoma surgeons, radiation and medical oncologists have the opportunity to discuss the best options for treatment.