Head and Neck Skin Cancer treatment

Skin cancer is very common in New Zealand. Skin cancer in the head and neck region is mainly due to exposure to the high amounts of ultraviolet (UV) radiation emitted from the sun, which is particularly strong in the southern hemisphere. Other risk factors that can increase your chance of skin cancer are:  

  • Tanning bed exposure 
  • Immunosuppressive medications 
  • Fair skin
header and neck skin cancer 2
header and neck skin cancer 1

Skin Cancer types and Skin Cancer symptoms

There are three common types of skin cancer.

Basal cell cancer (BCC) this is the most common skin cancer type. Basal cell carcinomas (basal cell cancers) arise from abnormal basal cells (the lowest part) in the skin. They usually present themselves as an abnormal growth on the skin and can look like small bumps, nodules, or a sore that doesn’t heal. These are usually slow-growing tumours that begin as small spots on sun-exposed areas of the face. They usually do not spread to lymph nodes.  

Squamous cell cancer (SCC) – this is the second most common of skin cancer type and is more aggressive than BCC. Sometimes squamous cell carcinoma (squamous cell cancers) spread to lymph nodes. 

Much like BCC, Squamous cell cancer look like small bumps, nodules, a crusty spot, an ulcer or a sore that does not heal. 

Melanoma – this is the least common skin cancer type but is more aggressive compared to BCC and SCC. Melanoma arises from within the melanocytes, the cells that give skin its pigment or colour. Although it is more likely to spread and is often harder to control, approximately 75% of melanomas are found before they have spread and can be cured with treatment.  

Melanoma usually present as an abnormal mole or growth on the skin. Regular self-examination will help you determine if a mole is new or changing. Any change in size of a mole on the head and neck, or the appearance of a new mole, should be evaluated by your local GP or by a specialist.   

Sometimes the first sign of head and neck melanoma is an enlarged lymph node in the neck.   

How is Skin Cancer in the Head and Neck diagnosed?

If you notice a funny looking mole, a change in an existing mole, have a sore on the skin that does not heal, a crusty area, an ulcer, or bump in the skin, we recommend visiting your local GP or see Dr. Hall skin cancer clinic for a formal diagnosis.   

Diagnosis is made by clinical exam and a biopsy. A biopsy is a small sample of tissue from the skin lesion in question. It is sent to the lab to determine if it is benign or malignant (cancer). Dr Francis Hall can diagnose skin cancer and will discuss with you treatment options. He will also determine whether or not the cancer has spread to other structures like lymph nodes.   

Skin Cancer treatment and Skin Cancer surgery

The treatment of skin cancer is surgery. Surgery involves excising the skin cancer along with a margin of normal tissue to ensure that the entire cancer is removed. If the cancer has spread to lymph nodes these too are removed. The lymph nodes are removed as a group in an operation called a neck dissection. Sometimes a parotidectomy (removing the parotid gland is also required. Dr. Hall has done hundreds of parotidectomies and neck dissections.  

In some cases of melanoma, sometimes a sentinel node biopsy is recommended. This is a technique where the area around a tumour is injected with a dye and one or two single nodes are removed and tested for melanoma.  

Patients with advanced basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma and all cases of melanoma are discussed at a multidisciplinary meeting (MDM) where there are radiologists, pathologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and surgeons. Recommendations may be made for further surgery, chemotherapy, targeted agents and radiotherapy depending on the aggressiveness of the tumour. Dr. Hall will be able to advise you on the recommended treatment. 

Dr. Hall and Head and Neck Skin Cancer

Dr. Hall has vast experience in diagnosing and treating head and neck skin cancer. He has performed many surgeries for removing skin cancer, neck dissections and parotidectomies and is able to provide you with a detailed treatment plan. If you notice any skin lesion or mole irregularities, we strongly recommend you contact your GP or book a consultation with Dr. Hall for an assessment. 

If you notice any skin lesion or mole irregularities, we strongly advise you to see a Head and Neck Skin Cancer specialist, Dr. Francis Hall would be happy to assist you. Please contact us on (09) 281 2963 or book an appointment online.