As a result of natural factors such as time and weather, your skin is vulnerable to harm, including tumours.
Basal cell carcinoma
The most common cancer is basal cell carcinoma (BCC), which can occur anywhere on the body but most often on uncovered areas such as the face and neck. BCC tumours do not develop quickly but can spread over your body and are best treated by excising them surgically.
Squamous cell carcinoma
Like BCCs, SCC (squamous cell carcinoma) lesions are mostly found in uncovered areas and are best removed surgically. They are rarer than BCCs but also more aggressive and can spread to your lymph glands as well as other areas of skin.
This cancer affects the cells that control your skin pigment and is usually indicated by a change in the size, shape or colour of a mole or by bleeding or itching. Timely diagnosis is most favourable as malignant melanoma can spread, so it is best excised and a sentinel node biopsy done to check that it hasn’t metastasised.
Removal of skin lesions
Skin lesions can often be excised to leave a neat scar in an unobtrusive position. However, we can also seal incisions with autologous skin graft transplants or local flaps if necessary.
Where direct closure is not possible, skin grafting is the usual form of wound closure and involves harvesting skin from another area of your body. We take either full thickness or split thickness grafts and the blood supply to your new skin grows up over the following days. Where a full thickness graft is harvested, usually from a concealed area such as your neck, groin, arm or behind your ear, the site is closed directly. Split thickness grafts are cut from the epidermis and part but not all of the underlying dermis, usually on your thighs. They leave a graze-like wound on the donor site which heals naturally.
We can harvest excess skin from one area to reconstruct another part of your skin. A flap involves taking tissue with an intact blood supply that can connect with the recipient area. The flap will be taken in a way that allows us to stitch the donor site in a place where the scar will be concealed.
Sentinel node biopsies
Certain cancers, such as melanoma, will spread first to the nearest lymph node. Sentinel node biopsies involve making a small incision near the node so we can remove it for testing and identify whether metastasis has occurred. This leaves a small scar but can reassure you.