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How Does Skin Cancer Affect The Body

What Are Common Side Effects After Surgery

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Pain. During and right after surgery, a surgeon typically works with the anesthesiologist to manage pain using medication to block the awareness of pain, called anesthesia. An anesthesiologist is a doctor who specializes in giving anesthesia and caring for people who receive it. After surgery, it is common to have some pain from the surgery’s effect on the body. The amount and location of the pain varies depending on your surgery. Factors that can affect the pain you experience include:

  • Location of the surgery

  • Size of incision, or surgical cut

  • Amount of tissue removed

  • If you had pain before surgery

Let your health care team know how you are feeling during recovery. Pain after surgery usually goes away gradually as the body heals. In the meantime, your doctor may give you pain medications to decrease your discomfort.

Fatigue. Fatigue is also common after surgery. Many people are very tired after major surgery, especially when it involves the abdomen or chest. The causes of fatigue from surgery include:

  • Anesthesia

  • The energy your body uses to help heal

  • Loss of appetite after surgery

  • Stress of surgery

Fatigue usually goes away gradually 2 to 4 weeks after surgery. Be sure to ask what is typical for the type of surgery you are having.

What Causes Skin Cancer

The main cause of skin cancer is overexposure to sunlight, especially when it results in sunburn and blistering. Ultraviolet rays from the sun damage DNA in your skin, causing abnormal cells to form. These abnormal cells rapidly divide in a disorganized manner, forming a mass of cancer cells.

Another cause of skin cancer is frequent skin contact with certain chemicals, such as tar and coal.

Many other factors can increase your risk of developing skin cancer. See question, Who is most at risk for skin cancer?

Symptoms Associated With Each Type Of Neurofibromatosis

Each type of neurofibromatosis can cause tumors to develop in specific areas that result in a specific set of symptoms. The three types of neurofibromatosis and their associated symptoms are:

  • Neurofibromatosis 1 This type of neurofibromatosis typically affects children and can cause brown spots on the skin, freckling in the armpits or groin and small bumps under the skin. Additionally, children with this condition may develop a tumor on the optic nerve that affects vision, small bumps on the iris of the eye and skeletal abnormalities like scoliosis.
  • Neurofibromatosis 2 Neurofibromatosis 2 can cause acoustic neuromas, which can result in trouble with balance or walking, dizziness and headaches, hearing problems, weakness in the face, numbness or pain and ringing in the ears.
  • Schwannomatosis This is the least common type of neurofibromatosis and typically causes tumors to develop in the brain and on certain nerves. Schwannomatosis can cause chronic pain, muscle loss, numbness and weakness throughout the body.

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When To See A Healthcare Provider

If you notice any of the signs or symptoms of skin cancer mentioned above, make an appointment to see your healthcare provider. A dermatologist can examine your skin and determine if a biopsy is needed. This is true no matter your skin color.

Skin cancer can more difficult to see or may look different on darker skin, and even healthcare providers can overlook melanomas in people of color. If you are concerned, but do not feel that your concern is being addressed, be your own advocate and continue to ask questions or get a second opinion.

Skin Cancer Doctor Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next doctor’s appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Tests That May Be Done

Skin Cancer Signs? Self

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 or feels. 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 skin cancer, more tests will be done.

Skin biopsy

In a biopsy, the doctor takes out a small piece of tissue to check it for cancer cells. A biopsy is the only way to tell for sure if you have skin cancer and what kind it is.

There are many types of skin biopsies. Ask your doctor what kind you will need. Each type has pros and cons. The choice of which type to use depends on your own case.

In rare cases basal and squamous cell skin cancer can spread to the nearby lymph nodes Ask your doctor if your lymph nodes will be tested.

Basal and squamous cell cancers don’t often spread to other parts of the body. But if your doctor thinks your skin cancer might spread, you might need imaging tests, such as MRI or CT scans.

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Knowledge Is Your Best Defense

What Is Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is the out-of-control growth of abnormal cells in the epidermis, the outermost skin layer, caused by unrepaired DNA damage that triggers mutations. These mutations lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. The main types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma , squamous cell carcinoma , melanoma and Merkel cell carcinoma .

The two main causes of skin cancer are the suns harmful ultraviolet rays and the use of UV tanning beds. The good news is that if skin cancer is caught early, your dermatologist can treat it with little or no scarring and high odds of eliminating it entirely. Often, the doctor may even detect the growth at a precancerous stage, before it has become a full-blown skin cancer or penetrated below the surface of the skin.

Americans will develop skin cancer by age 70.

How Is Skin Cancer Diagnosed

First, your dermatologist may ask you if you have noticed any changes in any existing moles, freckles or other skin spots or if youve noticed any new skin growths. Next, your dermatologist will examine all of your skin, including your scalp, ears, palms of your hands, soles of your feet, between your toes, around your genitals and between your buttocks.

If a skin lesion is suspicious, a biopsy may be performed. In a biopsy, a sample of tissue is removed and sent to a laboratory to be examined under a microscope by a pathologist. Your dermatologist will tell you if your skin lesion is skin cancer, what type you have and discuss treatment options.

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The Skin And What It Does

The skin does several jobs including:

  • protecting the inside of the body from damage
  • helping to keep our body temperature more or less the same
  • getting rid of some body waste products through sweat
  • making vitamin D

The skin is made up of 2 main layers: the epidermis on the outside and the dermis beneath.

The thickness of the epidermis and the dermis varies depending on the part of the body the skin is covering. For example, the skin on the sole of your foot is quite thick, about 5mm. The skin on your eyelid is much thinner, only about 0.5mm.

What Are The Side Effects Of Removing Lymph Nodes

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Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped organs that help fight infection. They filter bacteria and other harmful substances from the lymphatic fluid. Lymphatic fluid is a colorless fluid containing white blood cells that travels through most tissues of the body.

Sometimes cancer starts in your lymph nodes or may spread to your lymph nodes. In this case, the surgeon may remove lymph nodes as part of your surgery.

Lymphedema is a possible side effect of removing lymph nodes. Lymphedema is when fluid collects in the surrounding tissues and cannot drain back out. This causes swelling, tightness, and discomfort. It can also limit the movement and function of that area, such as an arm or a leg. You may need physical therapy or other care to manage this side effect.

Talk with your surgical care team about the risks of lymphedema before having any lymph nodes removed. If it is a possible side effect, you may want to ask your health care team to recommend a certified lymphedema therapist . A CLT is a health professional who specializes in managing lymphedema.

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How Can I Prevent Melanoma

  • Reducing Sun Exposure The best way to prevent melanoma is to reduce the amount of time spend in the sun. Avoid sun between 10.a.m to 4 p.m.
  • Wear Sun Protection and Protective Clothing Apply generous amount of sunscreen to all the exposed area on the body, apply 20-30 minutes before sun exposure and reapply every two hours. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with sun protection factor of at least 15. Wear protective clothing, including long sleeves, long pants wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses.
  • Self-Skin Examination From head to toe should be done every 6- 8 weeks, to look for any suspicious moles. It is important to always examine your skin to look for any changes in the moles or for development of new mole.
  • To learn more about melanoma and the clinical trials visit the following websites:

    Cancer May Spread From Where It Began To Other Parts Of The Body

    When cancer spreads to another part of the body, it is called metastasis. Cancer cells break away from where they began and travel through the lymph system or blood.

    • Lymph system. The cancer gets into the lymph system, travels through the lymph vessels, and forms a tumor in another part of the body.
    • Blood. The cancer gets into the blood, travels through the blood vessels, and forms a tumor in another part of the body.

    The metastatic tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if skin cancer spreads to the lung, the cancer cells in the lung are actually skin cancer cells. The disease is metastatic skin cancer, not lung cancer.

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    There Are Three Ways That Cancer Spreads In The Body

    Cancer can spread through tissue, the lymph system, and the blood:

    • Tissue. The cancer spreads from where it began by growing into nearby areas.
    • Lymph system. The cancer spreads from where it began by getting into the lymph system. The cancer travels through the lymph vessels to other parts of the body.
    • Blood. The cancer spreads from where it began by getting into the blood. The cancer travels through the blood vessels to other parts of the body.

    How Does Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer Affect The Body

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    However, changes in human skin cells may sometimes result in nonmelanoma skin cancer. In most of the cases, nonmelanoma skin cancer begins in round-shaped basal cells, which are present at the top area of the skin i.e. epidermis. Doctors refer to this type of cancer as BCC i.e. Basal Cell Carcinoma and they form approximately 75percent to 80percent of the total skin cancers.

    Alternatively, nonmelanoma skin cancer may take place in squamous skin cells i.e. flat cells present in the outer area of the skins epidermis. Doctors refer to this as squamous cell carcinoma and they form approximately 20percent of cancers.

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    Effects Of Cancer On The Body

    Fact Checked

    Every cancer results from abnormal changes in the genes of a normal cell. Genetic mistakes are common, but the cell usually recognizes and repairs them. Those that escape recognition can replicate and give rise to other, increasingly bizarre genetic mutations 1. Each cancer is the cumulative product of its mutations and behaves accordingly. While each tumor is individual, all cancers share some characteristic effects on the body.

    If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

    How Long Do Side Effects Last

    Remember that the type of radiation side effects you might have depends on the prescribed dose and schedule. Most side effects go away within a few months of ending treatment. Some side effects may continue after treatment ends because it takes time for the healthy cells to recover from radiation.

    Side effects might limit your ability to do some things. What you can do will depend on how you feel. Some patients are able to go to work or enjoy leisure activities while they get radiation therapy. Others find they need more rest than usual and cant do as much. If you have side effects that are bothersome and affecting your daily activities or health, the doctor may stop your treatments for a while, change the schedule, or change the type of treatment youre getting. Tell your cancer care team about any side affects you notice so they can help you with them.

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    Targeted Drugs And Hormone Therapy

    Some types of targeted cancer drugs and hormone therapy cause skin rashes.

    Targeted cancer drugs called EGFR inhibitors are most likely to cause skin reactions such as a rash and itching. These include erlotinib and cetuximab.

    If you have a severe rash, you may need treatment with steroid creams or tablets, or antibiotic creams or tablets.

    Who Is At Risk For Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer

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    A risk factor is anything that may increase your chance of having a disease. The exact cause of someones cancer may not be known. But risk factors can make it more likely for a person to have cancer. Some risk factors may not be in your control. But others may be things you can change.

    The most common risk factors for nonmelanoma skin cancer include:

    • Greater amount of time spent in the sun
    • The use of tanning booths and sunlamps
    • Certain features, such as fair skin, light hair , and green, blue, or gray eyes
    • Lots of freckles
    • HPV infection
    • Certain rare inherited conditions, such as xeroderma pigmentosum

    Talk with your healthcare provider about your risk factors for nonmelanoma skin cancer and what you can do about them.

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    Does Skin Cancer Affect People With Skin Of Color

    People of all skin tones can develop skin cancer. If you are a person of color, you may be less likely to get skin cancer because you have more of the brown pigment, melanin, in your skin.

    Although less prevalent than in nonwhite people, when skin cancer does develop in people of color, its often found late and has a worse prognosis. If youre Hispanic, the incidence of melanoma has risen by 20% in the past two decades. If youre Black and develop melanoma, your five-year survival rate is 25% lower than it is for white people . Part of the reason may be that it develops in less typical, less sun-exposed areas and its often in late-stage when diagnosed.

    If It Moves Deeper Other Symptoms May Appear

    If a melanoma is not caught in its first two stages, while its still in the skin, it can spread to nearby lymph nodes, eventually moving into the organs. Once it has moved beyond the skin and latched onto other areas, it is known as metastasized melanoma and other physical symptoms may present themselves. Melanoma symptoms may include:

    · Lymph nodes may become hard or swollen· Hard lumps may appear in the skin· Shortness of breath, chest pain or noisy breathing or a cough that wont go away· Pain in the liver · Achy bones· A headache that wont go away· Bowel issues and constipation· Extreme tiredness and fatigue

    The most common places for melanoma metastasis to occur are the lymph nodes, lungs, liver, bones, brain, and abdomen. Cancer Research UK provides a break down for the specific symptoms that typically occur in each area.

    Melanoma can affect the body in many different ways depending on the person and where and how the melanoma has formed. Prevent melanoma from forming by knowing the warning signs and taking steps to protect your skin from UV radiation.

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    Dark Lines On The Fingernails Or Toenails

    The appearance of a dark area under a fingernail or toenail that appears without an obvious injury should always be investigated. Melanoma of the nail bed often presents when a pigmented streak of the nail involves the cuticle . These cancers are most common on the thumb and big toe but may occur on any nail.

    While subungual melanomas are uncommon in whites, accounting for only around 1% of melanomas, they are the most common form of melanoma found in dark-skinned individuals.

    Less Common Treatment Effects

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    Radiation therapy. In some cases it can cause pulmonary fibrosis, which scars your lung tissue. You might notice:

    These symptoms typically show up 2-3 months after your treatment ends. It may first look like pneumonia, but antibiotics wonât help. Your doctor may prescribe steroids to treat your symptoms.

    Chemotherapy. Certain chemo drugs can lead to heart problems, especially if you had existing heart problems. Other possible side effects of chemo include:

    • Hot flashes and irregular or missed periods
    • Foggy thinking
    • Consistent numbness, pain, or tingling in fingers or toes
    • Weight gain

    Hormone therapy. If you have a type of tumor called estrogen receptive, you might get hormone therapy drugs. Many of them can lead to weaker bones . One drug, tamoxifen, may raise your risk for serious medical issues like stroke, blood clots, and uterine cancer. Tamoxifen also may cause:

    • Vaginal discharge
    • Weight gain
    • Hot flashes

    Each woman responds differently to their breast cancer and treatments. Itâs a good idea to keep track of your experience and update your doctors about your side effects. The sooner theyâre aware, the better they can help you get your symptoms under control.

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