What Patients Need to Know after Skin Cancer Diagnosis on the Face
- Posted on: Aug 15 2019
One of Walt Whitman’s most quoted poems says “keep your face always toward the sunshine and the shadows will fall behind you.” Beautiful as these words are, they are not meant to be taken literally. Keeping your face toward the sun is a prime way to invite skin cancer. Dermatologists most commonly diagnose skin cancer on areas such as the nose, lips, ears, and other sun-exposed areas. When this happens, patients need to know the steps that will benefit them the most.
- Patients need to understand the type of skin cancer they have developed. Patients are not nearly as well-versed in the forms of skin cancer as their doctor. The diagnosing dermatologist must provide clarity. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are two of the most common skin cancers. Basal cells typically grow slowly, which can be a silver lining. However, some subtypes of this cancer are known to grow deeper. A basal cell carcinoma may not require immediate treatment but care should also not be postponed too long. Squamous cell carcinomas, on the other hand, may grow more rapidly. Melanoma skin cancer is much less common but presents an entirely different scenario. Early treatment is a critical aspect of long-term prognosis.
- Second opinions matter. Skin cancer is often diagnosed via a skin biopsy. The sample of skin that is sent to a pathologist is examined microscopically. In many cases, the findings of the pathological examination are definitive. If they are inconclusive, a second opinion can be sought. Patients may look for terminology such as “features of” and “in keeping with” written in their pathology report. These indicate that the pathologist may not have been absolutely certain of their findings.
- Fellowship training counts. A skin cancer diagnosis should not only be confirmed by a board-certified dermatologist but also treated by a skin specialist who has obtained specific training in the treatment of the various types of skin cancer. A plastic surgeon can provide reconstruction if necessary, but may not have the familiarity with cancer cells to adequately remove them all. Dermatologists who have completed a dermatologic surgery fellowship such as Mohs training typically have the most training and experience treating facial skin cancers.
The American Society for Mohs Surgery provides training to reinforce key dermatologic surgery and Mohs concepts through multi-faceted trainings. We welcome board-certified dermatologists to explore the many benefits of membership with us by calling (800) 616-2767. Patients looking for a Mohs specialist may search our Surgeon Locator to find a doctor near them.
Posted in: Skin Cancer