Why Should I care about Skin Cancer?
New Zealand and Australia have the highest melanoma incidence rate in the world. According to statistics compiled by melanoma.org.nz over 4000 people are diagnosed every year in New Zealand – that’s around 11 every day. It’s the fourth most common cancer in New Zealand and around 300 New Zealanders die of melanoma every year.
Do I need a mole check?
Early detection is your best defence against melanoma and skin cancers. A thorough check by a skin expert is the only way to be sure you don’t have cancers or potential problems. Our doctors are highly trained and can alert you to any areas you will need to keep an eye on. Most people have moles and generally they tend to multiply as we age, so it’s a good idea to have an annual check-up.
What are the types of skin cancer and what causes it?
Most cases of skin cancer are caused by over-exposure to UV rays, either from our strong kiwi sun or sun beds. When caught in the early stages, most skin cancers are curable, which is why regular checks are so important.
Skin cancers are named for the type of skin cell they originate from:
• Basal cell cancer originates from the lowest layer of the epidermis, and is the most common and least dangerous
• Squamous cell cancer originates from the middle layer, and is less common but more likely to spread and higher risk
• Melanoma is probably the one you have heard about most often, which originates in the pigment-producing cells (melanocytes), it is the least common, but most likely to spread and most aggressive.
How long do treatments take?
Our skin check appointments are usually 20-30 minutes long. This includes signing-in, a complete medical history of your skin, advising us of any concerns, letting us know about your family history, followed by a full body check including special attention to any areas you are worried about. At the end of the examination our doctors will either congratulate you on being all clear for another year or we’ll have a closer look at any areas that look troublesome. At that point we’ll discuss options for treatment (hyperlink). If we are concerned about a mole we’ll explain what we have found and recommend a treatment, which may include a biopsy, cryotherapy, removal of a lesion - and we’ll let you know how long it will take and what to expect. Generally you could expect mole removal to take 30-45 minutes. All our medical procedures are carried out at the clinic and you can expect to return home the same day, having been provided with instructions on caring for the treatment site. Some procedures may require return visits, for example to have stitches removed. All post-operative care such as stitch removal is provided by the clinic as part of your treatment.
What should I expect following treatment?
We will explain exactly what to expect and how you can help your body heal. The time it will take and effects you might experience depend on the treatment and site.
Following cryotherapy, for example, the treated skin will redden, may become crusty and could blister. This is completely normal as the treated skin layer is giving way so that healthy skin can form underneath. Your skin should heal in seven to 14 days, again that depends on the size and site of the cryotherapy.
Following dermatosurgery, you will be provided with at-home care instructions for keeping the site clean and assisting healing. We will also arrange follow-up visits to remove stiches and monitor healing. If you have any queries at any time we are only a phone call away.
What does dermatosurgery involve?
Dermatosurgery is simply defined as surgery of the skin. It is typically used to remove unhealthy skin tissue such as suspicious moles. We use numerous advanced methods to close wounds once the skin cancer has been removed. Depending on several factors the wounds are closed either directly, with a flap of skin from an adjacent area or with a skin graft. These are performed in the clinic under a local anaesthetic. Prior to surgery we will explain exactly what we plan to do. Whilst you can’t cut through skin without leaving a mark we work hard to minimise any scarring. If you follow our care instructions often the scar will be barely visible within a few weeks or months of the surgery.
What's a dermoscope?
A dermoscope is a hand-held microscope specially designed to view skin cells. It magnifies structures beneath the skin to allow a more detailed analysis of moles and skin defects, for a more accurate diagnosis.
Who is at risk of skin cancer?
Some of us are at higher risk of skin cancer if we have:
- A history of previous skin cancers, including melanoma
- A family history of skin cancer or melanoma
- If you have had at least one childhood or teenage severe, blistering sunburn
- Light skin that tends to burn or freckle easily and blonde or red hair
- Sunbed use
- A large number of moles
- And if you notice moles that are changing, are large, unevenly coloured and/or irregular shapes
- Men aged 50+ have a higher risk of developing melanoma
What is the best skin cancer protection?
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and from sunlamps and tanning booths damages the skin and can lead to melanoma and other types of skin cancer. Therefore reducing your exposure to the sun and sunlamps is the best prevention. Read More.
Can I do a skin self-examination?
Yes, you certainly can and should, Here is how to do a skin self-exam:
- After a bath or shower, stand in front of a full-length mirror in a bright room. Use a hand-held mirror to look at hard-to-see areas.
- Begin with the face and scalp and work downward, checking the head, neck, shoulders, back, chest, and so on. Be sure to check the front, back, and sides of the arms and legs. Also, check the groin, the palms, fingernails, the soles of the feet, the toenails, and the area between the toes.
- Don’t miss the hard-to-see areas of the body, such as the scalp and neck. A friend or relative may be able to help inspect these areas. Use a comb or a blow dryer to help move hair so you can see the scalp and neck better.
- Be aware of where your moles are and how they look. By checking your skin regularly, you will become familiar with what your moles look like. Look for any signs of change, particularly a new black mole or a change in outline, shape, size, colour (especially a new black area), or feel of an existing mole. Also, note any new, unusual, or "ugly-looking" moles. If your doctor has taken photos of your skin, compare these pictures with the way your skin looks on self-exam.
- Check moles carefully during times of hormone changes, such as adolescence, pregnancy, and menopause. As hormone levels change, moles may change.
It may be helpful to record the dates of your skin exams and to write notes about the way your skin looks. If you find anything unusual make an appointment to see us so we can check it out. Remember, the earlier a melanoma is found, the better the chance for a cure.
How can I tell if a spot is cancerous?
It isn’t easy; some moles that look perfectly symmetrical and consistent in colour are deceptive and only an expert wielding the Dermoscope is able to see beneath the skin. Other moles that look cancerous because they’re large and ugly can be absolutely fine. It helps immensely to have plenty of expert medical training and years of experience – as our doctors do.
How is Melanoma diagnosed?
If our doctors suspect that a spot on your skin is melanoma, you may need to have a biopsy. A biopsy is the only way to make a definite diagnosis. In this procedure, we remove all of the suspicious-looking growth. This is called an excision. If the growth is too large to be removed entirely, we remove a sample of the tissue. A pathologist then examines the tissue under a microscope to check for cancer cells. Generally the pathologist will give us the results in about seven days and we will call you once we have received them.
What’s the difference between your clinic and mole-maps and other clinics?
We are highly trained experts that offer complete care from the initial screening (often referred to as a mole map) to diagnosis and then any treatment or surgery you may need.
Our appointments to check your entire body generally take around 20-30 minutes and you’ll be seen by one expert from the start to the end (we don’t hand-over to technicians and other doctors during your visit). We can discuss what we’re doing, answer any questions you may have and diagnose any concerns during your appointment. We provide professional skin cancer care at an affordable rate with doctors you can trust.
How do I book an appointment?
Phone: 443 6266
How much does an appointment cost?
Full Skin check up to 20 min - cost $155 incl GST.
Surgery 30-45 minutes – we will quote you for all surgical procedures before booking you in for an appointment.
We are Southern Cross Affiliated and manage all claims for Southern Cross members, meaning your health insurance should cover your visit. We suggest you bring your membership number with you to the clinic and we will organise approval and sort out the claim process. For non-insured patients we aim to remain highly affordable with very reasonable rates. We are happy to assess a lesion that has already been decided needs surgical excision and provide a quote for surgery at no charge.
Do I need a referral from my GP?
No. If you would like us to send a copy of your results to your GP we are happy to do that to keep them updated.
I have more questions, who can I talk to?
Talk to us, we’re happy to answer your queries, Phone: 443 6266
Email us at: email@example.com