Did you know skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in Australia?
Most skin cancer is caused by sun exposure, and many Perth people spend significant amounts of time outside in the sun – therefore it isn’t surprising that Perth has some of the highest rates of skin cancer diagnosis in the world.
Most of the skin cancer diagnosed in Perth is either basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), or melanoma. All of these types of skin cancer can start with small skin growths, with the true extent only evident when closely examined by a skin cancer specialist.
What is skin cancer?
Skin cancers are abnormal growths that need to be removed as early as possible. Most skin cancers in Perth can be divided into two main types: non-melanoma skin cancers, and melanoma skin cancers.
Non-melanoma skin cancers mainly include Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) and Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the commonest type of skin cancer in Perth, and fortunately it cannot spread beyond its original location. Although it often grows slowly it needs to be removed before it grows deep beneath the skin and affects surrounding body parts.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is another common type of skin cancer in Perth, and usually develops in parts of the body that are frequently exposed to the sun (e.g. head, neck, arms). Only rarely can SCC spread from its original location, and if left untreated it can cause significant problems.
Melanoma is another common type of skin cancer in Perth. Melanoma can develop from the skin cells that give your skin colour (melanocytes). While most moles or freckles are safe, some moles may begin to change shape or colour, potentially resulting in melanoma. As melanoma can be more aggressive than other types of skin cancer, melanoma treatment needs to be more aggresive, meaning a wider ‘safety margin’ of tissue often needs to be removed.
Melanoma surgery in Perth can also involve a sentinel node biopsy – this involves taking a sample of lymph nodes to assess if melanoma might have spread to them. If a sentinel node biopsy is indicated then Dr Colbert will discuss this with you during your pre-operative consultation.
Why should I see Dr Colbert for skin cancer surgery?
Dr Colbert is a Specialist Plastic Surgeon with an interest in skin cancer surgery. He has undergone extensive training to become a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of Surgeons (FRACS) in Plastic Surgery.
Once becoming a Plastic Surgeon he then underwent further training in head and neck cancer at Oxford University Hospital. Dr Colbert is a member of the Western Australian Kirkbride Melanoma Advisory Service, which provides treatment advice to people in Perth with melanoma.
What does skin cancer surgery involve?
Skin cancer removal is a specialist procedure performed by Perth Plastic Surgeon Dr. David Colbert.
Most skin cancers can be removed under local anaesthesia, and as day case surgery, meaning you can go home the same day. Once Dr Colbert has excised the skin cancer he will close the wound with sutures (stitches), and then a wound dressing is applied. You will be given specific post-operative instructions until your follow up review with Dr Colbert.
Larger skin cancers may be removed under local anaesthesia with some sedation, or sometimes under general anaesthesia (with you asleep). In some cases the wound may be too big to close directly with sutures, and a skin graft or skin flap may be required. If these treatments are necessary then Dr. Colbert will be discuss them with you during your pre-operative consultation.
Some melanoma lesions can grow deep into the skin, and be at increased risk of spreading to lymph nodes. A sample of the lymph nodes (known as a sentinel node biopsy) can be done to check if the melanoma has spread to a nearby lymph node. If this is the case then Dr Colbert will discuss this with you during your consultation.
What is the recovery after skin cancer surgery?
Recovery after skin cancer surgery is usually straightforward, although it does depend on how big your skin lesion is and the extent of surgery required.
In general, recovery for most patients involves:
- 1-2 days off work
- 1-2 days of mild pain or tenderness
- 1 week off vigorous exercise
- 1 – 2 follow up appointments
- Sutures removed between 5 and 14 days
- Wound care for 1 – 2 months (usually just daily cream or tapes)
Dr. Colbert personally follows up each patient to discuss your results and ensure your wound is healing without concern.
What scars can I expect?
Scarring after skin cancer surgery is a common question asked by Perth patients.
As a Specialist Plastic Surgeon Dr. Colbert always aims to minimise scarring by using precise plastic surgery techniques, placing scars in hidden locations, and closely monitoring your wounds after the operation.
Surgical scars will often take several months to settle down – they are often initially lumpy and bumpy and raised and red, before becoming flat and thin and pale in several months.
What are the risks associated with skin cancer surgery?
Skin cancer surgery can be associated with the following risks:
- Wound infection: this may present as redness or discomfort or discharge, and may require a course of antibiotics.
- Bleeding, bruising, and haematoma: haematoma refers to a collection of blood, and if large it may need to be removed in the operating room.
- Delayed wound healing: sometimes wounds may take longer to heal, potentially due to risks such as infection, poor blood supply, diabetes, or smoking.
- Scarring: scars are initially lumpy, but settle down over time. Rarely they may be permanently lumpy or thick (hypertrophic or keloid scarring).
- Incomplete excision: there is a small risk (less than 1 in 50) that the lesion is incompletely excised at the time of surgery, resulting in further surgery being recommended.
- Skin cancer surgery is like any surgical procedures in that it carries risks – therefore before having any operation you should always speak to an appropriately qualified health practitioner about these potential risks.
How much does skin cancer removal cost?
Costs associated with plastic surgery and skin cancer surgery in Perth can be confusing.
To help make things clearer we have listed the the following fees that make up the final cost of skin cancer surgery treatment.
- Surgical fee: the costs of skin cancer surgery are mostly paid for by Medicare and your private health fund. Depending on the nature of your operation there will be some out of pocket expenses, sometimes known as a ‘gap’. Dr Colbert will discuss these costs with you during your consultation.
- Anaesthetic fee: if you have your skin cancer surgery under anaesthesia, then the costs of anaesthesia are mostly paid for by Medicare and your private health fund. Depending on the nature of your operation there may be some out of pocket expenses.
- Hospital fee (this includes operation room fee, bed costs, surgical or medication fees, and any other hospital extras): Medicare does not cover this fee. If you have private health insurance then this may be covered by your insurance fund, but you should check with your fund if there is any out of pocket expenses. If you have no private insurance then you will have to pay this fee on discharge from the hospital.
Where can I find out more?
To arrange to speak to Dr Colbert about skin cancer surgery please contact our friendly office staff.
Alternatively you can leave a message by filling out our contact form.