Barnaby Smith – General, Laparoscopic and Endoscopic Surgeon
Skin Disorders Including Melanoma
Skin conditions dealt with by general surgery include lumps, tumours and other lesions of the skin and underlying tissues. These are often fairly simple conditions that can be dealt with by performing minor operations under local anaesthetic (the area of skin being treated is numbed). Often these procedures are performed as outpatient or day case procedures.
This is the most serious form of skin cancer. It can spread to other parts of the body and people can die from this disease.
A melanoma usually starts as a pigmented growth on normal skin. They often, but not always, occur on areas that have high sun exposure. In some cases, a melanoma may develop from existing pigmented moles.
What to look for:
- an existing mole that changes colour (it may be black, dark blue or even red and white)
- the colour pigment may be uneven
- the edges of the mole/freckle may be irregular and have a spreading edge
- the surface of the mole/freckle may be flaky/crusted and raised
- sudden growth of an existing or new mole/freckle
- inflammation and or itchiness surrounding an existing or new mole/freckle.
It is important that any suspect moles or freckles are checked by a GP or a dermatologist. The sooner a melanoma is treated, there is less chance of it spreading.
A biopsy or removal will be carried out depending on the size of the cancer. Tissue samples will be sent for examination, as this will aid in diagnosis and help determine the type of treatment required. If the melanoma has spread more surgery may be required to take more of the affected skin. Samples from lymph nodes that are near to the cancer may be tested for spread, then chemotherapy or radiotherapy may be required to treat this spread.
Once a melanoma has been diagnosed, a patient may be referred to an oncologist (a doctor who specialises in cancer).
A melanoma that is in the early stages can be treated more successfully and cure rates are much higher than one that has spread.