Abnormal Growths, Skin Cancers, and Treatments Phoenix, AZ

The skin is a vital organ of our body, and there are various abnormal growths and illnesses that can plague it, skin cancer being the most serious. However, these skin conditions can be treated, or even prevented, at Stockton Dermatology.

Actinic Keratosis

What is actinic keratosis?

Actinic keratosis is characterized by a rough, scaly patch on the skin. This patch is developed throughout the years, especially from sun exposure. This condition occurs on various parts of the body — the lips, face, scalp, ears, neck, forearms, and hands.

What are the symptoms of actinic keratosis?

This skin condition is often characterized by a variety of signs and symptoms, which include:

  • A scaly, dry patch of skin that is less than an inch in diameter
  • Pink to brown in color; sometimes appears red or flesh-colored
  • A burning or itching sensation in the affected parts of the body
  • A bump on the skin surface that may range from flat to slightly raised

What are the causes of actinic keratosis?

Actinic keratosis is caused by frequent exposure to the UV rays of the sun or tanning beds. Affected patches occur in areas exposed to the sun.

Who can get actinic keratosis?

People who are over 40 years old and live in warm weather/sunny regions are more prone to acquiring actinic keratosis. Those with pale skin and light-colored hair and eyes also have a greater risk of developing this skin condition.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

What is basal cell carcinoma?

A basal cell carcinoma is an abnormal growth or lesion that appears on the basal cells found in the deepest layer of the skin’s epidermis. Basal cell carcinoma appears as red patches or bumps on the skin surface. It can also appear as open sores or shiny bumps. Basil cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer in the US, and must be treated immediately to keep it from advancing to more serious stages.

What does basal cell carcinoma look like?

Basal cell carcinoma may appear as a pearly, shiny bump on the skin. Often visible blood vessels can be seen in the bumps that can appear on exposed areas. These lesions may crust or bleed. Basal cell carcinoma can also develop flat, scaly patches on the skin of the chest or back.

What causes basal cell carcinoma?

Basal cell carcinoma is caused when the DNA of the skin’s basal cells is damaged by exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun or tanning beds. However, other factors such as exposure to toxic substances may also contribute to the condition.

Blu-U with Levulan

What is Blu-U with Levulan treatment?

Blu-U with Levulan is a skin treatment that makes use of blue-light therapy, in combination with a topical substance called Levulan Kerastick, to kill the bacteria that cause acne. The propionibacterium bacteria can worsen and spread if left untreated, which is why a Blu-U therapy administered by Dr. Stockton is a good skin treatment option.

What skin conditions can be treated by Blu-U with Levulan?

This skin treatment is effective in treating stubborn acne and minimizing pores on the face. It is also used to treat rosacea, a skin condition that is characterized by excessive facial flushing. Blu-U uses blue light therapy to effectively treat the redness in the skin as well as treat inflammatory acne. It is also a great procedure for the removal of precancerous lesions such as actinic keratosis.

What can I expect from a Blu-U with Levulan treatment?

During your appointment, Levulan is applied to the areas of the skin that need treatment. The substance remains on the skin surface for about 30 to 60 minutes, after which you will be required to take a seat in front of a Blu-U light box for eight to 12 minutes. While the treatment is usually done on the face, it can also be performed on other parts of the body such as the chest and back.

What are the side effects of Blu-U with Levulan?

The procedure comes with minimal side effects. In some cases, you may experience redness and skin pigmentation changes after the treatment. Swelling is also a possible side effect. These symptoms usually fade within a few hours after treatment.

Cryosurgery

What is cryosurgery?

Cryosurgery is a skin treatment that utilizes extreme cold from liquid nitrogen to destroy an abnormal skin growth or damaged tissue. It is a popular procedure for the treatment of external tumors on the skin. While it can treat tumors on the skin surface, the procedure can also be used to treat tumors found inside the body, such as in the bone. During these cases, a cryoprobe is used to emit the liquid nitrogen or the argon gas directly into the tumor. During this procedure, an ultrasound or MRI is used to guide the doctor.

What can be treated with cryosurgery?

Cryosurgery is a treatment of choice for precancerous and noncancerous skin growths. It can also effectively treat other skin cancer types such as retinoblastoma, basal and squamous cell carcinomas, and actinic keratosis.

What can I expect from a cryosurgery procedure?

If the areas to be treated are large or the growths more involved, Dr. Stockton may elect to apply numbing cream before your cryosurgery to minimize any discomfort. Otherwise, the liquid nitrogen is applied to the abnormal tissue with an aerosol or by cotton swab.

What are the risks and side effects associated with cryosurgery?

The skin will usually blister to a degree, as that is how the body will then shed the unwanted precancerous or cancerous tissue. You can also have possible scarring, slight ulceration, and a temporary loss of sensation in the treated areas.

Dermoscopy

What is dermoscopy?

Dermoscopy is a non-invasive procedure that monitors the microstructures of the skin’s epidermis (outer surface) and evaluates the colors of the other layers of the skin. Dermoscopy identifies the relationship of these structures to the histologic features that can best suggest whether a skin lesion is malignant or benign. Only experienced doctors and clinicians are qualified to perform this complex  diagnostic procedure.

What is involved in a dermoscopy procedure?

During a dermoscopy, the skin surface is assessed. The procedure involves covering the pigmented skin lesion with liquid, usually alcohol or oil, before examining it under a special optical system. The liquid applied allows better visualization of the specific layers of the skin and denotes the location and distribution of melanin in the skin.

What skin conditions can be diagnosed using dermoscopy?

Different skin conditions come with particular dermoscopic patterns. These patterns serve as basis to identify the following abnormal growths and skin lesions:

  • Moles
  • Atypical nevi
  • Melanoma
  • Blue nevi
  • Seborrhoeic keratosis
  • Hemangioma
  • Pigmented basal cell carcinoma

Digital Photos

How do digital photos aid in the diagnosis of skin conditions?

Computer-aided diagnosis (CADx) software is a type of technology that makes use of digital photos or macrographs in order to further diagnose skin conditions.

What are other uses of digital photos with regard to skin disorders and skin cancer?

Digital technology has allowed doctors to take a digital photo of an affected area of the skin on the spot. The photos are used for further study and assessment of the particular skin lesion, as well as for documentation and research purposes.

Dysplastic Nevus

What is dysplastic nevus?

A dysplastic nevus is a benign mole that often resembles the serious skin cancer called melanoma. People who develop dysplastic nevi are likely in the future to also develop single or multiple melanomas. Up to eight percent of Caucasians develop dysplastic nevus. Those who have a family history of melanoma are at high risk for the development of the condition.

What does a dysplastic nevus look like?

Dysplastic nevi does not normally follow the ABCDE rules for skin lesion classification. Growths are usually asymmetrical, have irregularly-shaped borders, are uneven in color, measure much larger than a pencil eraser, and are unevenly raised from the skin surface.

What does having dysplastic nevus mean?

Having an atypical or dysplastic nevus generally puts you at risk for developing melanoma, regardless of whether or not you have a history of frequent exposure to UV rays or have a family history of melanoma. Although mild atypical nevi are not likely to become cancerous, the moderate to severe types can become cancerous over time, so they must be treated immediately.

Melanoma

What is melanoma?

Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. This condition is described as the development of cancerous growths due to the damaged DNA of skin cells. What makes melanoma more dangerous is its propensity to grow downward, eventually reaching below the layers of skin and then depositing cancerous cells into the bloodstream. Those cells can then wind up anywhere in the body, creating cancerous growths throughout the body without warning. This condition can develop from frequent exposure to the sun’s UV rays and radiation from tanning salons.

What does melanoma look like?

This form of skin cancer usually appears as a black or brown skin lesion, yet it can also come in the form of skin-colored, red, pink, blue, or white moles. In order to identify a possible melanoma, the ABCDEs of melanoma can be followed: A-asymmetry, B-borders, C-color, D-diameter, and E-evolving. Schedule a consultation with Dr. Stockton immediately if you suspect an abnormal lesion, especially if it is irregular in shape and is constantly evolving.

What are the risk factors of melanoma?

There are several risk factors associated with melanoma. These include sun exposure, the individual’s skin type, personal and family history, appearance and quantity of moles, and whether or not the person has a weak immune system.

What are the treatments for melanoma?

A melanoma must be removed with surgery. Usually, it can be outpatient surgery using only local anesthesia.

Mole Mapping

What is mole mapping?

In mole mapping, a patient’s moles are mapped and cataloged as part of an ongoing skin cancer surveillance program.

What is conventional photographic imaging?

This is a type of mole mapping where a series of photographic images are captured to create a complete map of the individual’s skin. Only qualified medical photographers should handle this process to ensure accuracy and standardization throughout the images.

What is dermoscopic imaging?

Another type of mole mapping is dermoscopic imaging. During this procedure, detailed images of the mole are captured and recorded.

Mole Removal

When does a mole have to be removed?

During your consultation with Dr. Stockton, she will identify whether your mole needs to be removed or not. Usually, she will opt to remove it for the following reasons:

  • The mole bothers you and affects daily life.
  • The mole makes you feel unattractive.
  • The moles could be, or could evolve into, skin cancer.

How are moles removed?

Dr. Stockton will remove your mole either by surgical incision or surgical shaving. A surgical incision cuts out the entire mole and the skin is stitched back together. Surgical shaving literally shaves off moles that are not too deep in the tissue. If your mole is suspected of being cancerous, a specimen will be sent to the laboratory for further examination.

Can I shave off a mole at home?

Shaving off a mole at home is not recommended. There is a possibility that your mole could contain cancerous cells, and shaving it off could cause some of those cells to inadvertently spread. Also, shaving moles at home can leave ugly scars and it risks infection.

Skin Growth Examinations

Why are skin growth examinations done?

A skin exam is done by Dr. Stockton for various reasons:

  • You have suspicious lesions and moles on your body.
  • You manifest symptoms of early skin cancer.
  • You have 50 or more moles on your body.
  • You have been previously diagnosed with skin cancer.
  • You have a family history of skin cancer.
  • You manifest atypical moles, also known as dysplastic nevi.

What can I expect during a skin growth examination?

During your appointment with Dr. Stockton, she will examine the skin all over your body for any suspicious skin growths, lesions, or moles. A bright light and a magnifying lens may be used during the procedure to better examine the skin. The scalp will also be checked by parting the patient’s hair.

What are the signs of skin cancer?

Using the ABCDE rule of skin cancer detection, your skin lesions and moles will be examined:

  • Asymmetry. One half of the mole is not equal to its other half.
  • Borders. The edges or borders of the mole are blurred or ragged.
  • Color. Lesions are not uniform in color. Some shades of brown and black may be present. Shades of red, white, and blue may also be included, creating a mottled appearance.
  • Diameter. A skin growth measures more than 6 mm or 0.2 inches, about the size of a pencil eraser.
  • Evolution. The skin lesion changes in size, shape, and manifestation. There could be tenderness, itching, bleeding, and changes in color.

Should I perform skin self-examinations?

Doing a skin self-exam will help detect any suspicious lesions and other skin problems as soon as possible. The earlier skin cancer is diagnosed, the better the chances of successful treatment. The patient should apply the ABCDE rule when doing the self examination.

Squamous Cell

What is squamous cell carcinoma?

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer. It is characterized by uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells in the body’s squamous cells. Squamous cells are found mostly in the epidermis/upper layer of the skin.

What does squamous cell carcinoma look like?

This form of skin cancer usually appears as scaly red patches or open sores. In some cases, it appears as an elevated growth that is depressed in the center. These skin lesions are often crusty and can bleed. The patches can form on all parts of the body including the mucous membranes and even the genitals. Yet they most commonly appear on areas that are frequently exposed to the sun —the face, lower lip, neck, hands, arms, legs, ears, and scalp.

How is squamous cell carcinoma treated?

There are various treatments for squamous cell carcinoma:

  • Mohs micrographic surgery. The growth and a thin layer around it is removed using a scalpel. The edges are immediately examined under the microscope. If cancerous cells are still present, more tissue is removed on the edges until the last layer examined under the microscope is free from cancerous cells. This procedure is done to preserve as much healthy skin as possible.
  • Excisional surgery. The skin lesion is removed using a scalpel and the wound is closed with stitches.
  • Cryosurgery. The tumor tissue is frozen with liquid nitrogen and will eventually fall off after a few weeks. This method is preferred for smaller squamous cell carcinomas.

Topicals: Carac, Efudex, Picato

What are topicals?

Topicals, or topical medications, are medications applied to the skin to treat certain ailments and conditions. They can also be applied on the mucous membranes and come in the form of creams, lotions, gels, foams, and ointments. It is important to get topical medications from medical professionals like Dr. Stockton to ensure their safety and effectiveness.

What does Carac do?

Carac is a topical medication used to address pre-cancerous and cancerous skin lesions and growths. Carac is applied to the skin to block the growth of abnormal skin cells.

How does Efudex work?

Efudex is a topical cream that contains fluorouracil, an antineoplastic metabolite that works by blocking the growth of abnormal skin cells such as cancer cells. This medication can cause skin irritation, rashes, and other potential side effects.

What does Picato treat?

Picato is a topical prescription medicine that is used for the treatment of actinic keratosis. It is to be used only on the skin, and must not come in contact with the eyes, mouth, or vagina. It can cause some serious side effects such as swelling, crusting, and pus.