SIGNS OF SKIN CANCER
Skin cancers are named after the type of skin cell from which they arise. Basal cell cancer originates from the lowest layer of the epidermis, and is the most common but least dangerous skin cancer. Squamous cell cancer originates from the middle layer, and is less common but more likely to spread and, if untreated, become fatal. Melanoma, which originates in the pigment-producing cells (melanocytes), is the least common, but most aggressive, most likely to spread and, if untreated, become fatal.
The most important warning sign for melanoma is a new spot on the skin or a spot that is changing in size, shape, or color. Another important sign is a spot that looks different from all of the other spots on your. If you have any of these warning signs, have your skin checked by a doctor. Be on the lookout and tell your doctor about spots that have any of the following features:
Asymmetry–One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
Border– The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
Color– The color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
Diameter– The spot is larger than 6 millimeters across (about ¼ inch – the size of a pencil eraser), although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this.
Evolving–The mole is changing in size, shape, or color.
It is important to tell your doctor about any changes or new spots on the skin, or growths that look different from the rest of your moles.
Other signs and symptoms are:
A sore that does not heal
Spread of pigment from the border of a spot to surrounding skin
Redness or a new swelling beyond the border
Change in sensation – itchiness, tenderness, or pain
Change in the surface of a mole – scaliness, oozing, bleeding
The signs and symptoms of non melanoma skin cancer are seen quite easily. They tend to occur most often on skin that is exposed to the sun. It will help you to spot skin cancers early if you are aware of how your skin normally looks. This will be the way you will recognize any changes more easily. Unusual sores, lumps, blemishes, markings, or changes in the way an area of the skin looks or feels may be a sign of melanoma or another type of skin cancer, or a warning that it might occur.
Non Melanoma Skin cancers can appear as
* A spot or sore that does not heal within 4 weeks
* A spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, scab, crust or bleed for more than 4 weeks
* Areas where the skin has broken down or become an ulcer, you can’t think of a reason for this change, and it does not heal within 4 weeks
Basal cell skin cancers look like a small, slow growing, shiny, pink or red lump. They can also look like red scaly patches. They are commonest on the face, scalp, ears, hands, shoulders and back. Squamous cell skin cancers are usually pink lumps. They may have hard or scaly skin on the surface. They are often, but not always, tender. They can bleed easily and develop into an ulcer. They are most often found on the face, neck, lips, ears, hands, shoulders, arms and legs. Bowen’s disease is a very early form of skin cancer. It usually looks like a red patch that may be itchy. It can appear anywhere on the skin. It is most commonly found on the lower leg, particularly in older women. But it can also develop on the moist membranes of the body. Moist membranes mean the soft wet skin similar to the skin on the inside of your mouth. Bowen’s disease may appear as a white patch in the mouth or a red patch in the genital area.
SKIN CANCER TREATMENT
In choosing the best treatment option, your doctor will consider your age and general health, the type and size of cancer, where it is on your body and what you want. The treatment choice will also depend on whether the skin cancer has spread elsewhere in your body.
Types of treatment include:
There are many treatments for skin cancer. A dermatologist selects treatment after considering the following:
Type of skin cancer.
Where the skin cancer appears on the body.
Whether the skin cancer is aggressive.
Stage of the cancer (how deeply the skin cancer has grown and whether it has spread).
After considering the above, your dermatologist will choose one or more of the following treatments for skin cancer.
Surgical treatment: To remove skin cancer, the following surgical treatment may be used:
Excision: To perform this, the dermatologist numbs the skin and then surgically cuts out the skin cancer and a small amount of normal-looking skin.
Mohs surgery: A dermatologist who has completed additional medical training in Mohs surgery performs this procedure. Mohs surgery begins with the surgeon removing the visible part of the skin cancer.
Other treatments for skin cancer are:
Immunotherapy: This treatment uses the patient’s own immune system to fight the cancer.
Cryosurgery: The dermatologist freezes the skin cancer. Freezing destroys the treated area, causing the skin and cancer cells to slough off.
Chemotherapy applied to the skin: The patient applies 5-FU to the skin cancer. When the skin heals, new skin appears.
Chemotherapy: If the cancer spreads beyond the skin, chemotherapy may kill the cancer cells.
Photodynamic therapy: This treatment consists of 2 phases. First, a chemical is applied to the skin cancer.
Radiation therapy: Radiation may be used to treat older adults who have a large skin cancer, skin cancers that cover a large area, or a skin cancer that is difficult to surgically remove.