Grant Clark, MD has practiced radiation oncology for nearly a decade. For the past three years, he has served as the medical director of radiation oncology for Thompson Cancer Survival Center’s downtown Knoxville clinic.
Dr. Clark says he is proud to serve on a knowledgeable and caring team of nurses, radiation therapists, and radiation physicists because they deliver compassionate cancer care in the form of radiation therapy. Dr. Clark describes the care at Thompson as precise and state-of-the-art. As with many conditions and especially cancers, catching problems early typically leads to better outcomes and less invasive procedures needed to treat the problem.
“Skin cancer is incredibly common and the seriousness can range from life threatening to a minor health annoyance,” says Dr. Clark. “Prevention is key, because treatments can range from minor to major, both in terms of the relative level of cosmetic impact as well as the overall impact on health and wellbeing. Unfortunately, sometimes to cure the skin cancer it takes highly aggressive treatments.”
Who Is At Risk for Developing Skin Cancer?
“There are a number of risks factors for developing skin cancer. Some common people considered “at risk” are typically those with fair skin, those with a history of sun burns or prolonged exposure to the sun over many years, those immunosuppressed, or those with pre-cancerous lesions like actinic keratosis (rough/scaly patches of skin).”
Types of Skin Cancer and Treatments
Squamous Cell and Basal Cell carcinoma are the most common forms of skin cancer. The majority of these are readily treatable and curable with procedures performed by dermatologists, typically outpatient in-office procedures.
Sometimes, an advanced form of microsurgery called Moh’s surgery can be utilized. More aggressive squamous or basal cell carcinomas may need radiation after surgery to prevent cancer relapses. Other times, often due to the location or size of the cancer, radiation is used instead of surgery and often patients have excellent cosmetic and functional outcomes with radiation instead of surgery with very good cure rates.
Melanoma is less common overall than basal and squamous cell carcinomas, but it is often referred to as “the worst.” This is because melanomas tend to spread to other parts of the body. Melanoma often requires more aggressive surgery, often including lymph node retrieval. Radiation is often used in melanoma as well, especially in patients that have had melanoma spread to his/her brain.
To avoid skin cancer, Dr. Clark strongly recommends wearing sunscreen and avoiding prolonged sun exposure.
“If you’re going to be outside for extended amounts of time, then wear at least SPF 30 sunscreen and re-apply every couple of hours. For kids, just make it part of the routine where they know they don’t get to go to the pool unless the sunscreen is on.” He emphasizes that the burns you get as an “invincible teenager” will put you at risk for skin cancer later on. Dr. Clark reminds us, “Don’t be afraid to be the nagging parent that makes their teenagers continue to practice sun safety.”
Thompson Cancer Survival Center staff helps patients and families navigate the challenging cancer landscape. Dr. Clark is one of many experts in this area. He says, “I want to do all I can to help them in their cancer journey – be it curing their cancer or improving quality of life as they live with cancer.”