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 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 it needs to be treated more aggressively, meaning a wider ‘safety margin’ of skin often needs to be removed. Melanoma surgery in Perth can also involve sentinel node biopsy – this involves taking a sample of lymph nodes to assess if melanoma might have spread to them, and if required 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.
Smaller skin cancers can be removed under local anaesthesia, and as day case surgery, meaning you can go home the same day. Once the lesion is removed, the wound is closed with sutures (stitches), a dressing applied is applied, and specific follow up instructions with Dr. Colbert are given to you.
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 flap may be required. If these treatments are necessary then Dr. Colbert will be discuss them with you during your pre-operative consultation.
What is the recovery?
Recovery from skin cancer surgery is usually straightforward, with most patients being able to return to their usual activities the following day.
Dr. Colbert personally follows up each patient to ensure your wound is healing without problems, to discuss your results, and to remove stitches.
What scars can I expect?
Scarring after 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 sometimes initially lumpy, bumpy, red, then after several months they settle to become flat, thin, and pale.
What are the risks associated with skin cancer surgery?
Although usually straight forward, 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 that needs to be removed in the operating room.
- Delayed wound healing: skin grafts may not completely ‘take’, resulting in further dressings being required.
- Scarring: scars are initially lumpy, but settle down over months. 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.