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How Can Skin Cancer Kill You

Who Is At Risk For Developing Melanoma

What is Cancer | How do you get Cancer | How does Cancer Kill you?

Everyone is at some risk for melanoma, but increased risk depends on several factors. These are sun exposure, number of moles on the skin, skin type and family history .

  • Sun Exposure Both UVA and UVB rays are dangerous to the skin, and can induce skin cancer, including melanoma. Blistering sunburns in early childhood increase risk, but cumulative exposure also is a factor.
  • Moles People with many moles are at an increase risk of developing melanoma. People with more than 50 moles are at a greater risk. Some people have irregular and unusual looking moles called atypical moles or dysplastic nevi. This increases the risk of melanoma.
  • Family History Any person who has a first-degree relative diagnosed with melanoma has a fifty percent greater chance of developing the melanoma than the person who does not have a family history of melanoma.
  • Genetic risk A mutation in the BRAF gene, may play a part in causing melanoma. Mutations in this gene can lead to uncontrolled cell growth and cancer. The mutations most commonly seen in familial melanoma occur in another gene, which is p53.
  • Personal History Person with a history of other type of skin cancer like basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinomas are at increase risk for developing melanoma.
  • Skin Type Fairer skin is at increased risk of developing melanoma.
  • Treatments For Advanced Melanoma

    In most cases, treatment can’t cure advanced melanoma. But some can help you live longer and feel better. The goal of any therapy you get will be to shrink or remove your tumor, keep the cancer from spreading further, and ease your symptoms.

    Surgery. This is the main way to remove melanoma from the skin and lymph nodes. You might also have an operation on organs where the cancer has spread. Thereâs no guarantee your surgeon will get all of it. Some melanoma is too small to see, even with high-tech scans.

    Radiation. Your doctor might recommend radiation to kill any cancer cells that have been left behind after surgery or if melanoma spreads to your brain or bones. It can also relieve pain from the disease or treat melanoma that comes back over and over.

    Immunotherapy or biologic therapy. These drugs help your immune system find and attack cancer cells. Depending on the ones you take, you might have to go in for treatment every 2, 3, or 4 weeks.

    Your doctor might want you to take more than one drug. Some studies show that people who do have fewer side effects.

    The flip side of immunotherapy is that sometimes these drugs cause your immune system to attack healthy organs. Then youâd need to stop melanoma treatment and take drugs to stop the attack.

    Chemo can shrink the cancer, but chances are it will start growing again after a few months and youâll need more treatment. Immunotherapy and targeted therapy usually work better.

    Other side effects include:

    What Is The Prognosis For Skin Cancer

    Although the number of skin cancers in the United States continues to rise, more and more skin cancers are being caught earlier, when they are easier to treat. Thus, illness and death rates have decreased.

    When treated properly, the cure rate for both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma approaches 95%. The remaining cancers recur at some point after treatment.

    • Recurrences of these cancers are almost always local , but they often cause significant tissue destruction.
    • Less than 1% of squamous cell carcinomas will eventually spread elsewhere in the body and turn into dangerous cancer.

    In most cases, the outcome of malignant melanoma depends on the thickness of the tumor at the time of treatment.

    • Thin lesions are almost always cured by simple surgery alone.
    • Thicker tumors, which usually have been present for some time but have gone undetected, may spread to other organs. Surgery removes the tumor and any local spread, but it cannot remove distant metastasis. Other therapies, new targeted agents or older approaches such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy, are used to treat the metastatic tumors.
    • Malignant melanoma causes more than 75% of deaths from skin cancer.
    • Of the approximately 70,000 malignant melanomas diagnosed in the United States in 2007, the vast majority were cured. Still, thousands of people die of melanoma each year.

    Read Also: What Is The Leading Cause Of Skin Cancer

    When Melanoma Can’t Be Cured

    If your cancer has spread and it is not possible to cure it by surgery, your doctor may still recommend treatment. In this case, treatment may help to relieve symptoms, might make you feel better and may allow you to live longer.Whether or not you choose to have anti-cancer treatment, symptoms can still be controlled. For example, if you have pain, there are effective treatments for this.;General practitioners, specialists and palliative care teams in hospitals all play important roles in helping people with cancer.

    What Types Of Complications From Cancer Can Be Life Threatening

    Can Melanoma Kill You

    Depending on the organ in which it starts, cancer thats diagnosed and treated in the early stages is usually not life threatening.

    Cancer can kill when it invades essential organs, like your liver, lungs, or brain, and stops them from functioning properly.

    These complications could be due to primary cancer that starts in an essential organ, such as brain cancer. Or it could be cancer that has metastasized from one area to another. For example, breast cancer that has spread to the lungs.

    As cancer spreads throughout the body, it becomes more difficult to control. Some types of cancer tend to spread slowly. Other types spread more aggressively.

    Lets take a closer look at some of the complications that cancer can cause.

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    What Will Happen After Treatment

    Youll be glad when treatment is over. For years after treatment, you will see your cancer doctor. Be sure to go to all of these follow-up visits. You will have exams, blood tests, and maybe other tests to see if the cancer has come back.

    At first, your visits may be every few months. Then, the longer youre cancer-free, the less often the visits are needed. After 5 years, they may be done once a year.

    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.

    Skin Cancer Diagnoses Vary Widely Know Your Options

    Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, affecting about 3.5 million Americans each year. Non-melanoma skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, are not likely to spread and may require little more than minor surgery or topical treatment. Melanoma, which accounts for about 1 percent of all skin cancers but is responsible for most skin cancer deaths, may spread through the lymphatic system or bloodstream to other organs. Because occurrence of this disease varies so widely, turning to a team of experts may be essential to understanding your disease and the options available to treat it. The pathologists and oncologists at our cancer hospitals are experts in treating skin cancer.

    At Cancer Treatment Centers of America® , our doctors;treat cancer every day, giving them the knowledge and experience to help you make informed decisions about your care. Your oncologist may recommend surgery, immunotherapy or targeted therapy, and plastic surgery;to restore your function and appearance, if necessary. Your care plan may also include evidence-informed supportive care therapies;to help you address skin cancer-related side effects, such as sun sensitivity, skin dryness, itchiness and redness, fatigue, swelling or nausea.

    Concerned about your skin cancer risk? Take our;five-minute risk assessment, and get an action plan based on your answers.

    Recommended Reading: How Do You Know If Squamous Cell Carcinoma Has Spread

    How Is Melanoma Staged

    Melanoma is divided into 4 stages based on the depth of the primary tumor and how far the cancer has spread from its starting point. Melanoma staging system helps to identify the best treatment method for individual cases and also helps to identify the prognosis. In situ melanomas have an excellent prognosis after surgical excision with a sufficient surgical margin. Invasive melanomas are far more serious. Breslow thickness is the depth of the melanoma calculated perpendicularly from the skin surface, specifically from the stratum granulosum of the epidermis to the lower-most level of the melanoma .

    When Metastatic Cancer Can No Longer Be Controlled

    What You Don’t Know About Skin Cancer Could Kill You

    If you have been told your;cancer can no longer be controlled, you and your loved ones may want to discuss end-of-life care. Whether or not you choose to continue;treatment;to shrink the cancer or control its growth, you can always receive palliative care to control the symptoms of cancer and the side effects of treatment. Information on coping with and planning for end-of-life care is available in the Advanced Cancer section of this site.

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    How Can I Help My Child Live With Skin Cancer

    If your child has skin cancer, you can help him or her during treatment in these ways:

    • Your child may have trouble eating. A dietitian or nutritionist may be able to help.

    • Your child may be very tired. He or she will need to learn to balance rest and activity.

    • Get emotional support for your child. Counselors and support groups can help.

    • Keep all follow-up appointments.

    • Keep your child out of the sun.

    After treatment, check your child’s skin every month or as often as advised.

    Drawbacks Of Laser Therapy

    Surgeons must have special training before they can do laser therapy and strict safety measures must be followed. Laser therapy is expensive and requires specialized equipment. Also, the effects of laser therapy may not last long, so doctors may have to repeat the treatment for you to get the full benefit.

    Not every hospital or cancer center in the country has skilled doctors and the machines needed to use lasers in cancer treatment. Talk with your doctor or contact hospitals and cancer centers in your area to find out if they are using lasers.

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    Symptoms Of Metastatic Cancer

    Metastatic cancer does not always cause symptoms. When symptoms do occur, what they are like and how often you have them will depend on the size and location of the metastatic tumors. Some common signs of metastatic cancer include:

    • pain and fractures, when cancer has spread to the bone
    • headache, seizures, or dizziness, when cancer has spread to the brain
    • shortness of breath, when cancer has spread to the lung
    • jaundice or swelling in the belly, when cancer has spread to the liver

    Causes Of Skin Cancer

    Can Melanoma Kill You

    Both types of skin cancer occur when mutations develop in the DNA of your skin cells. These mutations cause skin cells to grow uncontrollably and form a mass of cancer cells.

    Basal cell skin cancer is caused by ultraviolet rays from the sun or tanning beds. UV rays can damage the DNA inside your skin cells, causing the unusual cell growth. Squamous cell skin cancer is also caused by UV exposure.

    Squamous cell skin cancer can also develop after long-term exposure to cancer-causing chemicals. It can develop within a burn scar or ulcer, and may also be caused by some types of human papillomavirus .

    The cause of melanoma is unclear. Most moles dont turn into melanomas, and researchers arent sure why some do. Like basal and squamous cell skin cancers, melanoma can be caused by UV rays. But melanomas can develop in parts of your body that arent typically exposed to sunlight.

    Your recommended treatment plan will depend on different factors, like the size, location, type, and stage of your skin cancer. After considering these factors, your healthcare team may recommend one or more of the following treatments:

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    Treating Stage 3 Melanoma

    If the melanoma has spread to nearby lymph nodes , further surgery may be needed to remove them.

    Stage 3 melanoma may be diagnosed by a sentinel node biopsy, or you or a member of your treatment team may have felt;a lump in your lymph nodes.

    The diagnosis of melanoma is usually confirmed using a needle biopsy .

    Removing the affected lymph nodes is done under general anaesthetic.

    The procedure, called a lymph node dissection, can disrupt the lymphatic system, leading to a build-up of fluids in your limbs. This is known as lymphoedema.

    Cancer Research UK;has more information about surgery to remove lymph nodes.

    How Does The Doctor Know I Have Melanoma

    A new spot on your skin or a spot thats changing in size, shape, or color may be a warning sign of melanoma. If you have any of these changes, have your skin checked by a doctor.

    The doctor will ask you questions about when the spot on your skin first showed up and if it has changed in size or the way it looks. The rest of your skin will be checked. During the exam your doctor will check the size, shape, color and texture of any skin changes. If signs are pointing to melanoma, more tests will be done.

    Read Also: Is Basal Cell Carcinoma Malignant

    Fact: Melanoma Isn’t The Only Skin Cancer That Can Kill

    While people diagnosed with melanoma, a type of skin cancer, are less likely to survive than people diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancers , in 2015 there were more than 600 deaths from NMSC in Australia.

    There is currently no screening program for melanomas or NMSC. You should check your skin routinely for irregular or changing lesions and, if you’re at high risk of skin cancer, get an annual check by your doctor or dermatologist .

    Nonsurgical Treatment Options For Skin Cancer

    How Skin Cancer Spreads-Mayo Clinic

    Freezing or Cryotherapy. Cryotherapy can be performed during an in-office visit. It involves spraying an extremely cold substance on the skin cancer to destroy cancer cells.

    Light Therapy or Photodynamic Therapy . PDT is a two-part process. First, a solution that makes your skin more sensitive to light is applied to the cancer and a bit of skin around it. Youll sit with this solution on your skin for one to several hours. Second, your skin is treated with a blue or red light to kill the cancerous cells. This treatment is effective in treating early basal cell carcinoma, but repeated treatments may be necessary.

    Medications. Medications can be applied to the skin at home as prescribed either as an initial treatment or as a secondary treatment . Two drugs approved by the FDA for such treatment include Imiquimod and 5-FU.

    Radiation Therapy. For radiation treatments, youll need to go to a hospital or treatment center for several treatments given over a period of several weeks. This may be the only treatment recommended, or it could be a secondary treatment to kill any remaining cancer cells. Radiation treatment is usually only recommended for patients 60 years or older.

    Read Also: What Does Stage 3b Melanoma Mean

    Start By Taking A Walk

    The first thing that I advise people that are dealing with this, is to take a nice walk outside in the morning. Waking up with some fresh air and exercise will drive up the energy levels in the body. People will feel better throughout the day. It also contributes to how well the biorhythm is working.

    When the sun is out, it will also give them a nice boost of vitamin D which we need to feel healthy. Of course, I urge them to wear a hat and apply sunscreen before going out.

    Dr. Haley advises this because the UV exposure from the sun is the most common cause of skin cancer. So this tip does not only apply to people that are being treated for skin cancer, but also for people that are healthy. Make sure to be aware of the risks of the sun so you can enjoy it, without taking a risk.

    Problems With Blood And Blood Vessels

    Cancers that push into blood vessels can cause serious damage. In the brain, this can lead to a stroke.

    Cancer that affects bone marrow can interfere with the production of:

    • red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body
    • platelets, which are needed to stop bleeding
    • white blood cells, which are needed to fight infection

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    Symptoms Of Skin Cancer

    Skin cancers arent all identical, and they may not cause many symptoms. Still, unusual changes to your skin can be a warning sign for the different types of cancer. Being alert for changes to your skin may help you get a diagnosis earlier.

    Watch out for symptoms, including:

    • skin lesions: A new mole, unusual growth, bump, sore, scaly patch, or dark spot develops and doesnt go away.
    • asymmetry: The two halves of the lesion or mole arent even or identical.
    • border: The lesions have ragged, uneven edges.
    • color: The spot has an unusual color, such as white, pink, black, blue, or red.
    • diameter: The spot is larger than one-quarter inch, or about the size of a pencil eraser.
    • evolving: You can detect that the mole is changing size, color, or shape.

    Seek Comprehensive Care If Your Skin Cancer Is Complicated To Treat

    KRON 4

    Complicated skin cancer may require the expertise of multiple specialists. Plastic surgeons may get involved when the cosmetic challenges are significant. An ocular surgeon or an oculoplastic specialist may be needed if you have an especially difficult-to-treat skin cancer close to the eye. A head and neck surgeon may join your care team if there is nerve involvement or if the cancer is too extensive for local anesthesia.;

    The beauty of a comprehensive cancer center like MSK is that the expertise is all here, says Dr. Lee. We have a multidisciplinary program especially for people with complex skin cancer. You can usually see all of your doctors on the same day and in the same location. The dermatology team works with you to coordinate your appointments with your schedule.

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