If you have funny bumps on your skin, don’t let it go — get it checked out

Nikki Sommer, a nurse with Key West Surgical Group, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5 FM for Medical Matters this morning.

Skin cancer is a serious concern, especially in the Keys. Merkel cell carcinoma is the cancer that Jimmy Buffet suffered with for years.

Sommer said, “It is a very rare type of cancer, it only affects approximately 3,000 Americans a year. The diagnosis is a little bit steadily increasing. But that’s also could be contributed to the fact that everybody’s living longer and were exposed to the sun longer if we live longer.”

People over 50 years of age are most at risk because they have a longer history of sun exposure. How is it diagnosed?  

Sommer said, “Usually a skin specialist, either dermatologist or we do skin biopsies too. If you have those areas where they look funky that you don’t heal, you need to get a biopsy. It is done by a biopsy. Because it’s the only way to confirm the diagnosis. The sooner if you see something like that, don’t let it grow. Get it taken out right away, because you want to catch it when it’s in its early stages. Because once you pass it in its early stage, there’s really nothing that you have to do to treat it other than just continue to be monitored, probably every six months, to make sure that no new spots come around, but it can grow from your skin’s outer layer, inwards and become what’s called stage four cancer, which means it can metastasize to other organs.”

What tests are available to determine the stages of Merkel cell carcinoma?

Sommer said, “If they’re concerned about that it spread somewhere, you might need a CAT scan, or a PET scan. A PET scan is a scan of the entire body, from the base of the skull all the way down to make sure that it hasn’t spread anywhere else. If it’s in the lymph node, you might need a sentinel node biopsy or needle biopsy and we had talked about sentinel nodes with breast cancer and those are the closest nodes that come off the tumor when there is a cancer present, so you would get a sentinel node biopsy to see if it is in the node. If it’s in more than one node, that would be an indication that it might have spread. In the early stages, like stages zero to two, it responds better than later stages, which is three and four and that would be surgery. The surgery would remove the tumor and the skin layers while preserving as much of the healthy tissue as possible, that gets sent to pathology to make sure all your margins are clear. Another one is a wide local incision where they remove a really large area of the tumor and tissue just to make sure that your margins are clear and it’s not spreading. Then if it is in the lymph node, they would have to surgically remove the lymph nodes that have what they call metastatic cancer cells.”

Key West Surgical Group does have skin cancer patients.

Sommer said, “We’ve seen all types. Since I’ve been here, I have to knock on wood. I haven’t seen Merkel cell but I do know someone that has had it, but we definitely have seen, well, I’ve had melanoma, but we’ve diagnosed melanoma, squamous cell, basal cell here at the office frequently.”

If you have Merkel cell carcinoma treated through surgery, what happens after that?

Sommer said, “You may need chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy, it all depends, I think on where it is, if it has metastasized, at that point you would probably be sent to an oncologist and they would decide the best treatment for you to combat the disease.”

Is Merkel cell the worst type of skin cancer?

“It can be,” Sommer said, “But, squamous cell, melanoma and Merkel cell are the three worst because they can spread if left untreated. It’s just that Merkel cell I think is very aggressive but it’s also very rare so it’s not one that you hear about often.”

Taking care of your skin is important and that can be done with the PicoSure laser at Key West Surgical Group.

Sommer said, “Get your glow on. It also is good for pigmentation for sun damage. So if you’ve had many, many years of sun damage, and you want to lighten that, this laser is definitely a good option to do that and there is no downtime. So that’s what makes it a great treatment especially for down here in the hot sun.”

Tattoo removal is also an option with PicoSure.

Sommer said, “You can get it removed. We’re seeing some really great, lightening. One of them after four treatments is significantly lighter. So if you check out our Facebook page, it’s on our Facebook page. We have some before and afters and they’re really great to show you that. I say between five and 10 treatments, but we’ve seen some significant improvements after four.”

Sommer also had treatments herself with the PicoSure laser.

She said, “I did it back in January. I haven’t had a chance to have my second one but I still have lasting results from it. People still compliment me on my skin. So I am very happy.”

It’s a free consultation.

Sommer said, “For both tattoo and skin resurfacing and it can be done on other parts of the body. It can be done on arms, hands. I have someone coming in for their back and also for pigmentation. A lot of the body is more for pigmentation or even acne. So there’s a good treatment for acne. If it’s pigment or acne scarring, what it does is it heats up and breaks up that tissue and causes the stimulation of collagen and elastin, which then will help bring in new skin. That new skin is not going to have the damage. So the pigment what it does, kind of similar to tattooing, is it kind of shakes it up and breaks it down and then your body absorbs it and then new skin is regenerated. It’s a natural way to get collagen and elastin because over the age of 25 we start to lose our collagen and elastin. So this is a way to try and stimulate it naturally.”

For more information, click here:  https://www.keywestsurgicalgroup.com/