May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month and a good time to think about what it means to protect your skin.  The Midwest Dermatology physicians are specialists dedicated to your skin’s care, well-being, and overall health.  This is exactly why we’ve compiled this comprehensive summary of everything you should know about a disease affecting more than 1 million Americans annually.   Here, you can find out what that new mole might be telling you,  get a dash of reality about melanoma, the most serious skin cancer, and discover what happens after a skin cancer diagnosis.   Read on – your skin will be glad you did.

Spot The Warning Signs

 If you can identify with any of the warning signs – especially warning signs of Melanoma – pick up the phone for an appointment with your Midwest Dermatology physician.  Or schedule online at midwestderm.com.

Melanoma Symptoms: 

  • Changes to any existing mole
  • Unusual colors in a new or existing mole or growth – anything from black to blue, red to white. Anything that seems unusual in color should be checked.
  • Your mole has a notchy, uneven border or is not symmetrical.
  • A bigger mole – and by this, we mean something that looks bigger than an eraser on the end of a pencil.
  • If something tells you that a mole looks “funny,” listen to your instincts. It is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to living a long, healthy life.

 Melanoma can be aggressive and spread quickly to other parts of the body. 

 Basal Cell Carcinoma Symptoms:

  • An open sore that bleeds, oozes, or crusts and doesn’t heal.
  • A smooth growth with a raised, rolled border and dimple in the middle.
  • Shiny bump that looks pearly or translucent; may be pink, red, or white in color. The bump can also be tan, black, or brown, especially in dark-haired people, and it is confused with a mole.

Basal cell carcinoma is slow-growing and unlikely to spread, especially if treated.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma:

  • Sore that doesn’t heal
  • Wart-like growths on the skin.
  • Thickened skin on the lower lip.
  • Red, scaly patches, bumps, or crusted, scaly areas with a red, inflamed base.

 Squamous cell carcinoma is relatively slow-growing but is more aggressive and can spread without treatment. 

The Secret To Making Melanoma Treatable is YOU

 Okay, by now, you’ve heard that melanoma is a very scary disease.  You’ve seen the warning signs.  What may get lost amid the statistics and the fear of developing melanoma is that it is both treatable and preventable!

This disease is more treatable if it’s caught early and if treatment begins immediately.  This means that you should closely monitor your skin and know the warning signs of melanoma (see KNOW YOUR ABCDEs).  If you see changes, you should not procrastinate.  Waiting too long gives melanoma, which is known to be aggressive and fast-spreading, the time it needs to move to other parts of the body.  It becomes much more difficult to treat effectively when it spreads and develops.

Another plus?  Treatment for early melanomas may be as simple as removing a small growth on the skin. If you wait longer, melanoma may spread.  Then, treatment is more involved and challenging.  In addition to becoming aware of the warning signs, the key to preventing melanoma is simply being smart about the risk factors you can control, including:

  • Avoiding exposure to the sun’s (UV) rays
  • Avoiding the sun when it is the most damaging, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
  • Using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30
  • Preventing childhood sunburns
  • Performing monthly skin self-exams
  • Regular skin examinations conducted at Midwest Dermatology
And Announcing An Important New Melanoma Detection Tool Now Available at Midwest Dermatology

Consider NEW  mole mapping using advanced high-resolution digital photography.  Anyone can schedule a quick, painless mole mapping session by calling to schedule.  All mole mapping is done using today’s most advanced system, FotoFinder, in our comfortable suite at Midwest Dermatology Papillion.

Midwest Dermatology wants to dispel the fear and spread the news – that melanoma can be prevented and, if not allowed to grow and develop, can be successfully treated.

What Comes Next – Your Treatment Plan When Skin Cancer Is Suspected

Fortunately, most skin cancer situations can be easily resolved with prompt medical attention. Midwest Dermatology takes treatment one step further and enhances patients’ well-being with clear information about what to expect and the next steps when they are diagnosed with skin cancer.

STEP ONE:  SKIN BIOPSY.  During the biopsy, your doctor takes a small sample of the visible portion of the cancer to help make a diagnosis.

STEP TWO:  PATHOLOGY EXAM.  This is where the sample is examined under a microscope to determine what type of cancer is present and how developed the cancer is.

STEP THREE:  TREATMENT.  Your dermatologist has several choices about how to remove your cancer, and fortunately, most of today’s treatments have a very high cure rate when the condition is caught early.  Your doctor will help you decide on the procedure that best meets your medical and lifestyle needs.

STEP FOUR:  FOLLOW-UP.  After treatment (which, if it’s surgery, is most often done right in our office), your care doesn’t end.  Midwest Dermatology routinely checks areas that have been treated to make sure that cancer doesn’t reoccur – and that new lesions don’t develop.  Melanoma patients are monitored for changes, and care is coordinated with other doctors as necessary.

The most important step out of all of these is the first one – you taking action.  Instead of worrying or procrastinating, pick up the phone, make that appointment, and see your dermatologist.  Your skin, which is there to keep you protected on the inside – deserves it.

Always remember, skin cancer is the most treatable cancer, and Midwest Dermatology is here to help.

Mohs Does More

 When it comes to treating non-melanoma skin cancers, Mohs surgery is considered the gold standard. Mohs is actually considered micrographic surgery—a fancy name for a very refined treatment that lets surgeons see beyond the visible cancer to precisely identify and remove cancerous tissue. The beauty of Mohs is that your doctor can effectively leave the surrounding skin alone and unharmed, reducing disfiguring scarring.

There’s no double that Mohs is effective, boasting cure rates at 99%.   Mohs surgery is reserved for skin cancers that are more aggressive or that grow in sites that do not have extra skin to spare during removal. More specifically, Mohs is recommended for:

  • Cancer that was treated previously and has come back
  • Cancer on the skin that involves scar tissue
  • Large skin cancers
  • Skin cancers with edges that are difficult to define
  • Skin cancers that are fast-growing
  • Cancer on the body where healthy skin is especially important (for example, the face).

To understand how Mohs works to get the “roots’ of cancer, consider this:  skin cancer typically grows in a pattern similar to the roots of a tree.  Mohs ensures that surgeons go wide enough and deep enough to remove all of the cancer. Tissue is examined microscopically as it is removed to determine that the skin is clear of cancer cells.

Generally, Mohs surgery can be done in a single morning or afternoon.  After the procedure, the treated area may be closed up or, less commonly, left to heal by itself. Our Mohs surgeons are skilled in making repairs that minimize scarring and provide the best cosmetic option.

So What’s On Your To-Do List?

 We recommend a few line items on your must-do list that include learning the warning signs of skin cancer, monitoring your skin from top to bottom, front to back regularly (and by that, we mean monthly),  seeing your Midwest Dermatology physician annually, and preventing skin cancer with sunscreen and sun avoidance.   If you need a concerning growth checked or need a full body skin exam, call us at (402) 933-0800 or schedule your appointment at the office most convenient to you online at midwestderm.com

Midwest Dermatology wants you to learn more about FotoFinder Mole Mapping, the clearest, most precise way to visualize your moles, map them, and store them so that changes can be seen early and treatment can proceed immediately.  Contact our office to schedule your FotoFinder screening at our Papillion office.  All existing patients can schedule a screening, and the results will be forwarded to your physician.  New patients should schedule a consultation before proceeding with FotoFinder.  


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