Erring on the Side of Caution
- Posted on: Dec 15 2017
Skin cancer is winning in the polls, holding the distinct #1 spot as the most common form of cancer. This is not a win whatsoever. Men and women of all ages are typically blindsided when a biopsy confirms any stage of skin cancer – or any type. On our end, we know the up-side, which when cancer is treated early, the prognosis is far better. With the development of the Mohs micrographic surgical technique, there are even greater chances of curing a variety of skin cancers. Still, timing is a matter of importance.
Patients cannot be expected to fully grasp the significance of timing regarding biopsies and diagnostic imaging of abnormal growths. We are still in an era where the large majority of people are learning the danger of UV exposure and the need for protection on a daily basis. Relatively few people are consistent in a comprehensive regimen that includes annual skin cancer screenings. Naturally, any sign of anomaly may be met with denial. Part of our job as healthcare providers is to help patients understand the value of prompt diagnostic and therapeutic care, especially when there is a potential for melanoma.
Melanoma, a Growth in Transition
The earliest melanoma, a stage 0 growth, remains localized to the epidermis. At this point, the lesion is referred to as in situ; malignant cells are situated in one general area. As you know, this stage is only temporary. Cancer, by nature, is going to spread. Stage I and II melanoma growths penetrate the dermis and pose a risk of invasive damage, even mortality. Even deeper melanomas in stage I and II have a high cure rate, over 95%, especially when the Mohs technique is employed.
Mohs is often revered for its conservative nature and minimal cosmetic disturbance. However, what we want to prevent in skin cancer treatment is the spread of malignant cells. Once cancer cells metastasize, cure rate declines sharply. Melanoma is known to favor the lymph nodes when making its way into the body. This happens through the drainage of melanoma cells from the original tumor into a lymphatic fluid. Cells are then carried through natural channels to the nearest lymph node bay. This may be only the first stop on a long journey to distant organs. Metastasis of this extent drops the five-year survival rate to just 18%.
The importance of timing cannot be overstated when we are dealing with potential melanoma lesions. Erring on the side of caution, ordering diagnostic testing of suspicious growths, is the best approach we have to stop deadly tumors in their tracks.
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Posted in: Skin Cancer