Skin cancers are by far the most common cancers in the western world and being given the diagnosis is often quite terrifying for patients. However, there are a number of skin cancers and the outlook for each is very different. All cancers, if caught early, are amenable to cure.

Basal Cell Carcinomas (BCCs) are the commonest cancer in the UK, affecting mainly mature patients, and are caused, in the main, by sun exposure over a long period. Typically patients will have skin that tolerates the sun only poorly, and as such do not see themselves as ‘sun worshipers’. BCCs are usually found on sun exposed areas such as the face and neck, but are not limited to these areas. They are slow growing, often present for months or years, and relatively simple to remove whilst small. As they grow they eventually grow deeply, when they can be harder to remove. It is very rare for them to spread around the body as other cancers can.

Squamous Cell Carcinomas (SCCs) fall into a similar category to BCCs; they are most commonly found in those of 50 or older, in sun exposed areas. They are, however, more aggressive than BCCs and can spread to the lymph glands – albeit unusually (5% of all SCCs). Once again, they are best treated early when surgery is simple. Unlike BCCs, you will not be discharged after removal but will need a period of follow up.

Malignant Melanoma is a cancer of the cells that help to tan the skin. In contrast to the above two skin cancers, Melanoma affects all age groups. The main signs are of a mole that is growing, changing colour or shape, itching and bleeding. If you are concerned about any such moles you should see your doctor for advice. Mr Price carries out surgery to treat melanoma and undertakes the latest treatment, Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy (SLNB).

Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy

SLNB is a test to determine whether there is any evidence that your melanoma has spread to your glands. It is carried out at the same time as surgery for the melanoma and consists of a two-stage process. In the morning, radio-active dye is injected into the skin next to your melanoma, and then imaged to identify the gland to which it drains. In the second stage, Mr Price injects a blue dye and then, during your operation for melanoma, makes a cut over the gland and removes it for analysis. This allows an assessment of whether there are any melanoma cells in the gland – and therefore whether, at that time, there is any evidence your melanoma has spread.

Not all patients benefit from SLNB – in particular, the risks of the procedure are felt to outweigh the benefits in patients with very thin (early) melanomas. Mr Price will discuss this with you at your consultation.

If you are concerned you may have any skin cancer, you should see your General Practitioner. If you wish Mr Price to be involved in your care, please either ask your Doctor to write to Mr Price, or make an appointment.

To make an appointment to discuss reconstructive surgery for Skin Cancer in Cambridge, please contact Mr Price’s secretary.