Skin Cancer Care
The word "cancer" refers to collections of cells which change and exhibit abnormal growth patterns. Skin cancer is the most common form of the disease, accounting for almost half of all cancers in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. More than 1 million people in the U.S. are diagnosed with the 3 most common types of skin cancer each year — basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma — and the numbers are on the rise.
It is important to see Dr. Paula Lapinski, a Mohs surgeon and board-certified dermatologist right away if you have symptoms such as a mole that is changing color or shape or size, a sore that won't heal completely, a spot that bleeds or forms a scab again and again, or red scaly bumps that persist. Dr. Lapinski is a specialist in the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancers. Request a consultation or call us at (815) 744-8554.
Can You Spot Skin Cancer? See how an ultraviolet camera brings out sun damage that's invisible to the naked eye.
Detecting and treating skin cancer early provides most people an excellent chance for a full recovery. The key to early detection is getting routine examinations, especially for men and women who enjoy outdoor activities and spend a lot of time in the sun at the beach, on the golf course, or anywhere. That's true for everyone, even those who are conscientious about sun protection and don't have a family history of skin cancer.
Many factors contribute to the development of skin cancer. Some are environmental, including sun exposure and a history of sun burns, or exposure to carcinogens such as coal tar. Other factors are hereditary including skin complexion, eye color, genetic defects, and some forms of immunosuppression.
Overexposure to the sun is a leading cause of skin cancer, but patients do not need to avoid the sun completely to keep their skin safe. That's good news for active Chicago area residents. It's important to apply a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher at least 10 to 20 minutes before exposure, and every 2 to 3 hours during exposure. You'll want to reapply after swimming, heavy perspiration, and periodically throughout the day. Make sure you apply the correct amount, and be sure it is broad spectrum or says it covers UVA & UVB.
Protective clothing is another good way to enjoy the warm Midwestern sun while looking out for your skin. You should wear long sleeved shirts and a wide-brimmed hat whenever possible, and seek shadier areas when possible, avoiding exposure during the peak hours.
Why Choose a Fellowship-Trained
What does it mean to be a fellowship-trained Mohs surgeon? It means providing skin cancer treatment that meets the highest standards of quality and competency. Dr. Lapinski completed fellowship training under the American College of Mohs Surgery, the only organization that requires its members to complete rigorous post-residency training. Learn more about why choosing a Mohs surgeon is important.
Self-examinations of the skin are an important component of a prevention routine. First, establish a baseline "snapshot" of your skin by scheduling a comprehensive exam with one of our board-certified dermatologists. That's particularly useful if you spend a lot of time outdoors. Once you're familiar with your skin and any moles or other conditions, we recommend inspecting the entire skin surface on a monthly basis. A full-length mirror, good lighting, and assistance from a loved one can help in examining the hard-to-see areas. Bring any changes in your skin or strange lesions to your doctor's attention right away. Prevention and early detection are critical to maintaining healthy skin, so consider scheduling yearly surveillance examinations with one of our specialists.
SKIN CANCER SELF-EXAMINATION
How to Check Your Spots:
Checking your skin means taking note of all the spots on your body, from moles to freckles to age spots. Skin cancer can develop anywhere on the skin and is one of the few cancers you can usually see on your skin. Ask someone for help when checking your skin, especially in hard to see places.
Examine body front and back in mirror, then right and left sides, arms raised.
Examine back of neck and scalp with a hand mirror. Part hair for a closer look at your scalp.
Bend elbows, look carefully at forearms, back of upper arms, and palms.
Check back and buttocks with a hand mirror.
Finally, look at backs of legs and feet, spaces between toes, and soles.
THE ABCDEs OF MELANOMA
What to Look for:
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. However, when detected early, melanoma can be effectively treated. You can identify the warning signs of melanoma by looking for the following:
One half is unlike the other half.
Irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border.
Varied from one area to another; shades of tan and brown, black; sometimes white, red or blue.
While melanomas are usually greater than 6mm (the size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed, they can be smaller.
A mole or skin lesion that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape or color.Example:
Resource: American Academy of Dermatology