What Will Happen After Treatment
Youll be glad when treatment is over. Your doctor will want you to check your skin at least once a month. It will be very important to protect yourself from getting too much sun.
For years after treatment ends, you will see your skin cancer doctor. At first, your visits may be every few months. Then, the longer youre cancer-free, the less often the visits are needed. Be sure to go to all of these follow-up visits. Your doctor will ask about symptoms and check you for signs of the cancer coming back or a new skin cancer. Other exams and tests may also be done.
Having cancer and dealing with treatment can be hard, but it can also be a time to look at your life in new ways. You might be thinking about how to improve your health. Call us at 1-800-227-2345 or talk to your cancer care team to find out what you can do to feel better.
You cant change the fact that you have cancer. What you can change is how you live the rest of your life making healthy choices and feeling as good as you can.
What Causes Basal Cell Carcinoma
BCC develops from exposure to damaging ultraviolet sunlight and tanning beds. This cancer starts in the basal cell layer of the skin and grows very slowly. It develops mainly on the areas exposed to the sun, such as the:
- Head and face
Risk factors for basal cell carcinoma include:
- Exposure to UV radiation
- Older age
- Long-term skin inflammation or injury
- Treatment for psoriasis using psoralens and ultraviolet light treatments
- History of skin cancer
- Basal cell nevus syndrome, a rare inherited disorder
Treating Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Most of squamous cell carcinomas can be cured if they are treated early. Once squamous cell carcinoma has spread beyond the skin, though, less than half of people live five years, even with aggressive treatment.
There are many ways to treat squamous cell carcinoma that has not spread. These include:
- cutting away the cancer and a small amount of healthy tissue around it. If a large area of skin is removed, a skin graft may be necessary.
- scraping away the cancer with a surgical tool. An electric probe is used to kill any cancerous cells left behind.
- freezing cancer cells with liquid nitrogen. This treatment is usually used only for very small tumors or for a patch of skin that looks abnormal but isn’t yet cancerous.
- destroying the tumor with radiation.
- shaving away the cancer, one thin layer at a time. Each layer is examined under the microscope as it is removed. This technique helps the doctor preserve as much healthy skin as possible.
- applying drugs directly to the skin or injecting them into the tumor
- using a narrow laser beam to destroy the cancer.
The treatment that is best for you depends on the size and location of the cancer, whether it has returned after previous treatment, your age, and your general health.
Once your treatment is finished, it’s important to have regular follow-up skin exams. Your doctor may want to see you every three months for the first year, for example, and then less often after that.
Get To Know Your Skin And Check It Regularly
Look out for changes such as:
- A mole that changes shape, color, size, bleeds, or develops an irregular border
- A new spot on the skin that changes in size, shape, or color
- Sores that don’t heal
- New bumps, lumps, or spots that don’t go away
- Shiny, waxy, or scar type lesions
- New dark patches of skin that have appeared
- Rough, red, scaly, skin patches
If you notice any changes to your skin, seek advice from a medical professional. Basal cell carcinoma is very treatable when caught early.
How Dangerous Is A Basal Cell Carcinoma
While melanoma rightly deserves the attention it receives as the most dangerous form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma isnt something to brush off as harmless. Yes, this most common form of skin cancer rarely causes fatalities, but it can become quite disfiguring.
While basal cell carcinoma lesions rarely spread beyond the original tumor site, they should not be allowed to grow freely. These lesions can grow widely, penetrating deeply into the skin destroying skin, tissue, and bone. Plus, the longer you leave a basal cell carcinoma untreated, the more likely it is to come back. And because it will usually return in the same area, this can create problems removing the lesions without overly disfiguring the patient.
How Do People Find Bcc On Their Skin
Many people find it when they notice a spot, lump, or scaly patch on their skin that is growing or feels different from the rest of their skin. If you notice any spot on your skin that is growing, bleeding, or changing in any way, see a board-certified dermatologist. These doctors have the most training and experience in diagnosing skin cancer.
To find skin cancer early, dermatologists recommend that everyone check their own skin with a skin self-exam. This is especially important for people who have a higher risk of developing BCC. Youll find out what can increase your risk of getting this skin cancer at, Basal cell carcinoma: Who gets and causes.
Images used with permission of:
The American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides.
J Am Acad Dermatol. 2019 80:303-17.
Looking For Signs Of Skin Cancer
Non melanoma skin cancers tend to develop most often on skin that’s exposed to the sun.
To spot skin cancers early it helps to know how your skin normally looks. That way, you’ll notice any changes more easily.
To look at areas you cant see easily, you could try using a hand held mirror and reflect your skin onto another mirror. Or you could get your partner or a friend to look. This is very important if you’re regularly outside in the sun for work or leisure.
You can take a photo of anything that doesn’t look quite right. If you can it’s a good idea to put a ruler or tape measure next to the abnormal area when you take the photo. This gives you a more accurate idea about its size and can help you tell if it’s changing. You can then show these pictures to your doctor.
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Can Basal Cell Carcinoma Be Cured
In the vast majority of cases, basal cell skin cancer can be cured. The survival rates are excellent however, the exact statistics remain unknown. Unlike other cancers, basal and squamous cell skin cancers are not tracked by cancer registries, so the statistics are not available.
In some cases, basal skin cancer can recur. The risk of recurrence appears to be linked to the type of treatment used to treat the cancer.
Research has indicated that the recurrence risk is:
- Just above 10% after surgical excision
- Slightly less than 8% after electrodesiccation and curettage
- Approximately 7.5% after cryotherapy
- Less than 1% after Mohs micrographic surgery
Treatment options vary depending on the subtype, staging, and location of the basal skin cancer.
The Answer To The Question If Skin Cancer Can Come And Go Is Rather Tricky
Skin cancer coming and going would refer to malignant cells being there one day and then withering away shortly after without any treatment.
And then returning again in the same spot. This has not been shown to occur with the deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma.
It has also not been shown to occur with another type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma there are no cases confirming that this particular cancer was literally coming and going without treatment.
The same can be said for the most common cancer in the world, a skin growth known as basal cell carcinoma.
Howeverthe concept of a skin cancer coming and going appearing and disappearing spontaneously without treatment might be applicable to precancerous lesions.
Your immune system will help destroy some early stages of skin cancer like actinic keratosis, says Janet Prystowsky, MD, board certified dermatologist in New York, NY, with 30+ years experience.
Dr. Prystowsky adds, The growth may recur, however. The process may repeat itself.
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What About Other Treatments That I Hear About
When you have cancer you might hear about other ways to treat the cancer or treat your symptoms. These may not always be standard medical treatments. These treatments may be vitamins, herbs, special diets, and other things. You may wonder about these treatments.
Some of these are known to help, but many have not been tested. Some have been shown not to help. A few have even been found to be harmful. Talk to your doctor about anything youre thinking about using, whether its a vitamin, a diet, or anything else.
Referral To The Local Hospital Skin Cancer Mdt
For a BCC that isn’t likely to come back, you might be seen by your GP if they are a member of the Local Hospital Skin Cancer MDT. Your GP may refer you to the Local Hospital Skin Cancer MDT if:
- you have a BCC that’s at a higher risk of coming back or has come back
- you have a squamous cell cancer or melanoma
- its not certain which type of skin cancer you have
Some GPs are specially trained to remove low risk basal cell cancers in their practice. There are a number of features that mean a BCC is considered low risk. These include:
- a type of BCC called nodular BCC
- being small
- being in an area of the body where it is easy to remove
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Referral To A Specialist
Your GP should arrange for you to see a specialist if you have symptoms that could be due to certain types of non melanoma skin cancer. Depending on your symptoms and other factors, this might be an urgent referral.
Some GPs have had special training and are able to treat a type of skin cancer called basal cell cancer . So you might not need a referral to see a specialist.
Diagnosing Squamous Cell Carcinoma
The main way to diagnose squamous cell carcinoma is with a biopsy. This involves having a small piece of tissue removed from the suspicious area and examined in a laboratory.
In the laboratory, a pathologist will examine the tissue under a microscope to determine if it is a skin cancer. He or she will also stage the cancer by the number of abnormal cells, their thickness, and the depth of penetration into the skin. The higher the stage of the tumor, the greater the chance it could spread to other parts of the body.
Squamous cell carcinoma on sun-exposed areas of skin usually does not spread. However, squamous cell carcinoma of the lip, vulva, and penis are more likely to spread. Contact your doctor about any sore in these areas that does not go away after several weeks.
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What Does Basal Cell Cancer Look Like
Basal cell cancer most often appears on sun-exposed areas such as the face, scalp, ears, chest, back, and legs. These tumors can have several different forms. The most common appearance of basal cell cancer is that of a small dome-shaped bump that has a pearly white color. Blood vessels may be seen on the surface. Basal cell cancer can also appear as a pimple-like growth that heals, only to come back again and again. A less common form called morpheaform, looks like a smooth white or yellowish waxy scar. A very common sign of basal cell cancer is a sore that bleeds and heals up, only to recur again.
What Causes Skin Cancer
Before answering, Can skin cancer heal on its own? its important that you first understand its underlying causes. In most cases, skin cancer is caused by excessive sun exposure. This exposure to ultraviolet and UV radiation can cause damage to the DNA of the cells. Once your immune system has been compromised, these skin cells can mutate and lead to cancerous cell growth.
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Questions To Ask The Doctor
- Do you know the stage of the cancer?
- If not, how and when will you find out the stage of the cancer?
- Would you explain to me what the stage means in my case?
- What will happen next?
There are many ways to treat skin cancer. The main types of treatment are:
Most basal cell and squamous cell cancers can be cured with surgery or other types of treatments that affect only the spot on the skin.
The treatment plan thats best for you will depend on:
- The stage and grade of the cancer
- The chance that a type of treatment will cure the cancer or help in some way
- Your age and overall health
- Your feelings about the treatment and the side effects that come with it
Symptoms Of Bowen’s Disease
Bowen’s disease usually appears as a patch on the skin that has clear edges and does not heal.
Some people have more than 1 patch.
- up to a few centimetres across
The patch can appear anywhere on the skin, but is especially common on exposed areas like the lower legs, neck and head.
Sometimes they can affect the groin area and, in men, the penis.
If the patch bleeds, starts to turn into an open sore or develops a lump, it could be a sign it’s turned into squamous cell skin cancer.
Read Also: What Are The Early Stages Of Melanoma
See A Suspicious Spot See A Dermatologist
If you find a spot on your skin that could be skin cancer, its time to see a dermatologist. Found early, skin cancer is highly treatable. Often a dermatologist can treat an early skin cancer by removing the cancer and a bit of normal-looking skin.
Given time to grow, treatment for skin cancer becomes more difficult.
What Is The Cause
The basal cell carcinoma usually happens on the neck and the head as it is most common on those areas which are commonly exposed to the sun. But the underlying cause is a mutation in the basal cells, and it causes them to multiply faster and continue to grow instead of dying and falling off. The risk factors which contribute to this condition include radiation, chronic sun exposure, family or personal history of a skin cancer, fair skin, a regimen of immune-suppressing medication, and exposure to arsenic.
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What Is A Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that occurs when there is damage to the DNA of basal cells in the top layer, or epidermis, of the skin. They are called basal cells because they are the deepest cells in the epidermis. In normal skin, the basal cells are less than one one-hundredth of an inch deep, but once a cancer has developed, it will spread deeper.
More Pictures Of Basal Cell Carcinoma
While the above pictures show you some common ways that BCC can appear on the skin, this skin cancer can show up in other ways, as the following pictures illustrate.
Scaly patch with a spot of normal-looking skin in the center
On the trunk, BCC may look like a scaly patch with a spot of normal-looking skin in the center and a slightly raised border, as shown here.
Basal cell carcinoma can be lighter in some areas and darker in others
While BCC tends to be one color, it can be lighter in some areas and darker in others, as shown here.
Basal cell carcinoma can be brown in color
Most BCCs are red or pink however, this skin cancer can be brown, as shown here.
Basal cell carcinoma can look like a group of shiny bumps
BCC can look like a group of small, shiny bumps that feel smooth to the touch.
Basal cell carcinoma can look like a wart or a sore
The BCC on this patients lower eyelid looks like a wart* in one area and a sore** in another area.
If you see a spot or growth on your skin that looks like any of the above or one that is growing or changing in any way, see a board-certified dermatologist.
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Can Basal Cell Carcinoma Go Away On Its Own
Basal cell carcinomas do not generally go away on their own. Sometimes, they may seem to be less prominent depending on the degree of skin inflammation around the tumour. However, it is important to note the tumour cells are often beneath the skin surface and not visible to the naked eye.
Dr Mallipeddi is trained and experienced in the latest treatments for skin cancer. Learn more about how he can help you click here.
Remission And The Chance Of Recurrence
A remission is when cancer cannot be detected in the body and there are no symptoms. This may also be called having no evidence of disease or NED.
A remission may be temporary or permanent. This uncertainty causes many people to worry that the cancer will come back. While many remissions are permanent, it is important to talk with your doctor about the possibility of the cancer returning. Understanding your risk of recurrence and the treatment options may help you feel more prepared if the cancer does return. Learn more about coping with the fear of recurrence.
If the cancer returns after the original treatment, it is called recurrent cancer. It may come back in the same place , nearby , or in another place .
When this occurs, a new cycle of testing will begin again to learn as much as possible about the recurrence. After this testing is done, you and your doctor will talk about the treatment options. Often the treatment plan will include the treatments described above, such as surgery, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, radiation therapy, or immunotherapy, but they may be used in a different combination or given at a different pace. Your doctor may suggest clinical trials that are studying new ways to treat this type of recurrent cancer. Whichever treatment plan you choose, palliative care will be important for relieving symptoms and side effects.