It’s easy to Google skin cancer or visit Webmd, but what do surgeons say about skin cancer? After all, they are the ones you go see for surgeries, right? May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and part of our job is to educate our readers. This education includes interviews about what to look for and ultimately how to avoid things like a visit to a surgeon. Here’s what one of them said.
We interviewed board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Thomas Narsete, MD, who has been practicing for over thirty years. I know this can be scary to read about. But, it’s important to get the facts so you can do something about it. Having operated on thousands of people, Dr. Narsete is the perfect person to do a question and answer session. Here’s what we learned:
Reflect Skin: What can you do to avoid getting skin cancer?
Dr. Narsete: “The easiest thing is to stay out of the sun. Using a sunblock with at least SPF 30 and reapplying it is also key.”
Reflect Skin: What area(s) do you see most people getting skin cancer?
Dr. Narsete: “I most commonly see it on the face, especially in the peri-nasal areas; upper lip, nose, cheeks.”
Reflect Skin: What should people look for if they think they might have skin cancer?
Dr. Narsete: “When it comes to skin cancer, there are typically there are three things a to look for. The first is any change or color in the size of a mole. This can be a tell-tale sign. Second, any skin lesion that has a crater or a ulcers (is an open wound that doesn’t heal). Third, is any growing nodule on the skin.”
Reflect Skin: Okay, so if I notice something like that on my skin, what do I do?
Dr. Narsete: “Don’t wait. Make an appointment with a licensed physician and have it checked out.”
Reflect Skin: Good to know. Let’s say someone thinks they might have an issue, books an appointment…what happens next at the doctor’s office?
Dr. Narsete: “If the physician thinks it could be cancerous they will take a biopsy and send it to a Pathologist (specialized physician) to see if it’s cancerous.”
Reflect Skin: This is like a minor suspense movie…what happens next?
Dr. Narsete: “In the event it comes back as a cancerous we will schedule a time to do a minor procedure and remove the affected tissue.”
Reflect Skin: How big of an area do you remove?
Dr. Narsete: “It depends on how much skin is affected. Usually less than a centimeter.”
Reflect Skin: What else can I do to avoid a trip to my local surgeon’s office?
Dr. Narsete: “It’s a good idea to have a regular check-up by a licensed physician, at least once a year. Don’t be afraid to point out any areas of concern.”
Phew. That’s a lot of information. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation “the estimated five-year survival rate for patients whose melanoma is detected early is about 99 percent in the U.S.” Nobody wants to make a trip to the doctor’s office. But, skin cancer is real and can cause problems for you and your family. Safe to say, wear sunscreen and do your best to stay out of the sun. And, knowing is half the battle.
To stopping skin cancer,
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