Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK and the rate continues to rise.
Types of skin cancer
There are 3 main types of skin cancer, namely basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma. Ultraviolet exposure and sunbed use are the main and also most preventable risk factors for skin cancer.
The most common type of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma which is usually located on sun exposed sites and appears as a persistent, slowly growing skin lesion that can often ulcerate and bleed.
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer which is also usually found on sun exposed sites. It can look like a rapidly growing scaling nodule or a non-healing lesion and can be tender to touch.
The most dangerous form of skin cancer is melanoma, of which there are over 10,000 cases every year in the UK. Melanoma can develop from pre-existing moles or may arise from a new mole.
It is also important not to miss pre-skin cancers which include actinic keratosis, Bowen’s disease and lentigo maligna. If these lesions are identified and treated early, the risk of developing a skin cancer is significantly reduced.
Treatment for skin cancer
If an abnormal mole or skin cancer is suspected, a GP is likely to refer you to a consultant dermatologist as soon as possible.
If a skin cancer is suspected, Dr Joey Lai-Cheong will remove the lesion promptly under local anaesthetic and the specimen is sent for analysis. In some cases, he will refer a patient to a plastic surgeon in complicated cases such as when a skin graft may be needed. It takes about a week for the results to come back from the pathologist and thereafter Dr Lai-Cheong reviews the patient with the results. Some patients may need to have additional investigations such as CT scans or may need to have additional treatments such as radiotherapy. Dr Lai-Cheong will discuss these with you if appropriate.
The patient is then followed up regularly if necessary according to the UK guidance on skin cancer.
The outcome for patients with skin cancer is generally excellent and an earlier presentation and identification of skin cancer is associated with a better outcome. It is therefore important to check your skin regularly so that early changes and pre-skin cancers are identified at an early stage.
Dr Joey Lai-Cheong uses a specialist device called a dermatoscope to assess all his patients with moles and skin lesions.
Dermatoscopy or dermoscopy is a specialized in-depth skin imaging technique to check moles and lesions. It allows a detailed analysis of the colour, pigment network and structure of the mole, which means that skin cancer changes can be identified at a very early stage
Mole Max HD
At the moment, this service is only available at the Bridge Clinic and patients seen elsewhere by Dr Joey Lai-Cheong also benefit from a similar system, the Dermlite Cam, which is a portable device.
Regional Skin Cancer Team
Dr Joey Lai-Cheong leads the multi-disciplinary skin cancer team for Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospital and is a core member of the specialist regional Thames Valley skin cancer network.
The team meets on a weekly basis to discuss all melanoma and other complex skin cancers. This enables the group to share knowledge and expertise in order to provide patients with the highest standards of patient care.