For skin cancer, Dr. Naomi Brooks focuses on early diagnosis and treatment of patients in Boise. A skin cancer diagnosis can be concerning, which is why Dr. Brooks endeavors to treat all her patients with compassion and empathy. She focuses on finding the right treatment for every patient based on the type and severity of the cancer, as well as the affected area. Most of all, by performing regular and complete skin exams, we hope to educate patients on early detection, self skin exams, and prevention measures.
There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma. Other much rarer types include Merkel cell carcinoma, cutaneous lymphoma, and Kaposi sarcoma. The main risk factor for skin cancer is UV damage from sunlight and tanning beds. Risk goes up with cumulative sun damage, as well as a history of blistering sunburns. Other risk factors include fair skin, older age, a family history of skin cancer, and immune-suppressive medications.
Though we tend to see more cases in people aged 50 and older, skin cancer can occur at any age. Melanomas can occur in children, teens, and pregnant women, though luckily, this is not common.
Skin cancer most often occurs in sun-exposed areas of the skin, including the nose, ears, neck, scalp, chest, back, and extremities. Some forms, especially melanoma, can also occur in non-exposed areas of the skin, such as between the toes, buttocks, and groin area.
+-Read more about melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers.
Non-melanoma skin cancers are the most common type of skin cancer. This includes BCC and SCC. They derive from different types of cells in the top layer (epidermis) of the skin. As they grow, they will invade deeper into the skin (dermis). These forms of skin cancer usually stay localized to the skin, and typically do not spread to other areas of the body. Most non-melanoma skin cancer is easily treatable. However, if they are not treated, these cancers can grow into larger areas of skin, causing disfigurement, pain, and bleeding.
Melanoma derives from melanocytes, the pigment-producing cells in the skin. This type of skin cancer can be more aggressive, and has a higher risk of spreading to other parts of the body. Early melanoma is easily treatable, but as it spreads deeper in the skin or spreads to other areas inside the body, it can be fatal.
BCC and SCC can appear as a new growth or bump on the skin. The growth may be a pink scaly bump, or a waxy, scar-like, or shiny growth. It may bleed or scab without any trauma, or appear as a pimple that persists over several months.
Melanoma can appear as a new mole that is growing, or in an existing mole that is changing. The ugly duckling sign is a mole that stands out and looks different from your normal moles.
There are five sets of warning signs that could demonstrate the presence of skin cancer cells. They are easy to remember as ABCDE.
For any suspicious lesion on the skin, Dr. Brooks will perform a biopsy to test for cancer. This is a simple procedure that can be done during an office visit. The results take about a week to arrive.
Most skin cancer can be treated with a simple excision. Other treatment options may include a topical imiquimod cream, electrodessication and curettage (local destruction), and Mohs surgery. Treatment options depend on the size, location, and type of skin cancer.
The best treatment for cancer is early detection. Precancerous lesions, such as actinic keratoses, can lead to SCC, but early treatment may prevent their progression. People with more than 50 moles or a history of abnormal moles also need close monitoring to detect new or changing moles that may be a sign of early melanoma.
A full-body skin exam can detect growths that have gone unnoticed by patients, or are in skin areas that are difficult to see. Baseline yearly skin exams are recommended after age 50. Patients need skin exams at a younger age if they have a family history of melanoma, if they have had a previous skin cancer, or if they have other risk factors. Most importantly, all patients benefit from education about warning signs of skin cancers and ways to keep your skin healthy and protected from the sun.