A Primer On Skin Cancer
Malignant melanoma, especially in the later stages, is serious and treatment is difficult. Early diagnosis and treatment can increase the survival rate. Nonmelanoma skin cancers include basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Both are common and are almost always cured when found early and treated. People who’ve had skin cancer once are at risk for getting it again they should get a checkup at least once a year.
Actinic Keratosis Signs And Symptoms
Many people have actinic keratosis , also called solar keratosis, on their skin. It shows that youâve had enough sun to develop skin cancer, and it is considered a precursor of cancer, or a precancerous condition.
Usually AK shows up on the parts of your body that have received the most lifetime sun exposure, like the face, ears, scalp, neck, backs of the hands, forearms, shoulders and lips.
Some of the same treatments used for nonmelanoma skin cancers are used for AK to ensure it does not develop into a cancerous lesion.
This abnormality develops slowly. The lesions are usually small, about an eighth of an inch to a quarter of an inch in size. You may see a few at a time. They can disappear and later return.
- AK is a scaly or crusty bump on the skinâs surface and is usually dry and rough. It can be flat. An actinic keratosis is often noticed more by touch than sight.
- It may be the same color as your skin, or it may be light, dark, tan, pink, red or a combination of colors.
- It can itch or produce a prickling or tender sensation.
- These skin abnormalities can become inflamed and be encircled with redness. Rarely, they bleed.
Basal Cell Carcinoma Early Stages
Basal cells are found within the skin and are responsible for producing new skin cells as old ones degenerate. Basal cell carcinoma starts with the appearance of slightly transparent bumps, but they may also show through other symptoms.
In the beginning, a basal cell carcinoma resembles a small bump, similar to a flesh-colored mole or a pimple. The abnormal growths can also look dark, shiny pink, or scaly red in some cases.
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When To See A Doctor
It is always vital to seek medical advice early for a skin change, no matter how small it may appear. Make an appointment with your doctor for a skin exam if you notice:
- Any new changes, lesions, or persistent marks on your skin
- A mole that is asymmetrical, has an irregular border, is multicolored, is large in diameter, is evolving, or has begun to crust or bleed
- An “ugly duckling” mole on the skin
- Any changes to your skin that you are concerned about
Basal Cell Skin Cancer Warning Signs
Basal cell cancer tends to develop on parts of the body that get a lot of sun exposure, like the face, head, and neck, but they can appear anywhere.
Some are flat and look a lot like normal skin. Others have more distinctive characteristics, says the American Cancer Society , including:
- Flat, firm, pale, or yellow areas that resemble a scar
- Raised, reddish patches of skin that might be itchy or irritated
- Small bumps that might be pink, red, pearly translucent, or shiny, possibly with areas of blue, brown, or black
- Pink growths with slightly raised edges and an indentation in the center tiny blood vessels might run through it like the spokes of a wheel
- Open sores, possibly with oozing or crusted areas, that dont heal or that go through cycles of healing and bleeding
- Delicate areas that bleed easily. For instance, having a sore or cut from shaving that lingers longer than one week.
These slow-growing skin cancers can be easy to ignore unless they become big and begin to itch, bleed, or even hurt, according to the ACS.
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What Is The Treatment For Skin Cancer
Treatment for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma is straightforward. Usually, surgical removal of the lesion is adequate. Malignant melanoma, however, may require several treatment methods, including surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy or immunotherapy or both. Because of the complexity of treatment decisions, people with malignant melanoma may benefit from the combined expertise of the dermatologist, a cancer surgeon, and a medical oncologist.
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Symptoms Of Skin Lesions
Facial skin cancer is divided into three different types:
- Basal cell carcinomas affect the face, ears, and scalp, and are characterized by a pearly, waxy bump a flat, flesh-colored lesion or a brown scar-like lesion.
- Squamous cell carcinomas are most typically found on the face, lips, and ears. Signs include a firm, reddish nodule, and a flat lesion with a scaly or crusted surface.
- Melanomas can occur anywhere, but are commonly found on the head or neck. Symptoms of facial melanoma include a mole that changes in size or color, or bleeds a brownish spot with dark speckles a lesion with an irregular border and parts that appears red, blue, blue-black, or white and dark lesions on the mucous membranes lining the nose and mouth.
There are a few other types of facial skin cancers that are less common. These present with red or purple patches on the skin or mucous membranes firm, shiny nodules in the hair follicles or just beneath the skin or hard, painless nodules on the eyelids or other parts of the face.
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Factors That Contribute To Skin Cancer
Most primary skin neoplasms occur in skin that is exposed to adverse conditions. Ultraviolet light from sunlight is most often a contributing factor. Desert sunlight is particularly dangerous, but water and snow both reflect a high proportion of the ultraviolet light from the sky, increasing the risk for sailors, beach lovers and winter-sports enthusiasts. In farmers and ranchers, the skin of the face, neck and arms is also at high risk.
Exposure to immunosuppressive drugs or ionizing radiation is a less common cause.1 Use of organic arsenics and tars predisposes to skin cancer. A history of malignant melanoma in a first-degree relative or the presence of numerous melanotic nevi, which may be familial or sporadic, greatly increases the risk of developing malignant melanoma.24 Persons with fair or freckled skin that does not tan are at increased risk. Dark hair and skin provide some protection from skin cancer. Family physicians should educate their patients about these risks and encourage them to protect their skin.
What Do I Need To Know
- AKs are evidence of sustained sun damage. Having them raises your lifetime risk for skin cancer. Since having one AK means that its likely you have already developed more, this may translate into an especially elevated risk for developing an SCC.
- An untreated SCC can become invasive and even life-threatening.
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What To Do If You Notice Skin Changes
If you notice anything unusual on your skin, make an appointment to show it to your GP. It might help to take a photograph of anything unusual, so you can check for any changes. Remember there are many other skin conditions that are not cancer, especially in older people.
It can be more difficult to notice changes if you have darker skin. This is because symptoms of skin cancer may be less obvious than in people with paler skin. If you notice any changes, such as a sore that does not heal, always see your GP.
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Signs Of Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma most commonly looks like a small open sore. It could be red or pink in fair-skinned people and brown in people of color. It may present as a red patch or bump on the skin. BCC often has a raised or rolled border around the sore and may bleed or crust over. It can present differently in each individual.
BCC is usually found on areas of the body exposed to the sun like the face, ears, neck, scalp, and shoulders. If you have experienced an open sore that doesn’t heal or a red patch of skin that wont go away, its best to get it checked out. BCC can also look like a shiny, pearl-like growth or a waxy scar with undefined borders. The area may itch, be painful, or have no symptoms at all.
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Basal Cell And Squamous Cell Carcinomasigns And Symptoms
The most common warning sign of skin cancer is a change on the skin, especially a new growth or a sore that doesn’t heal. The cancer may start as a small, smooth, shiny, pale or waxy lump. It also may appear as a firm red lump. Sometimes, the lump bleeds or develops a crust.
Both basal and squamous cell cancers are found mainly on areas of the skin that are exposed to the sun the head, face, neck, hands and arms. But skin cancer can occur anywhere.
An early warning sign of skin cancer is the development of an actinic keratosis, a precancerous skin lesion caused by chronic sun exposure. These lesions are typically pink or red in color and rough or scaly to the touch. They occur on sun-exposed areas of the skin such as the face, scalp, ears, backs of hands or forearms.
Actinic keratoses may start as small, red, flat spots but grow larger and become scaly or thick, if untreated. Sometimes they’re easier to feel than to see. There may be multiple lesions next to each other.
Early treatment of actinic keratoses may prevent them from developing into cancer. These precancerous lesions affect more than 10 million Americans. People with one actinic keratosis usually develop more. Up to 1 percent of these lesions can develop into a squamous cell cancer.
Basal cell carcinoma is the most commonly diagnosed skin cancer. In recent years, there has been an upturn in the diagnoses among young women and the rise is blamed on sunbathing and tanning salons.
- Raised, dull-red skin lesion
Causes Of Skin Lesions
Facial skin cancer is the result of mutations in the skin cells that cause them to grow out of control. The biggest risk factor for skin cancer is ultraviolet radiation from sunlight and tanning beds. Those with fair skin, a history of sunburns and excessive sun exposure, moles, or a family history of skin cancer are more prone to developing it.
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Causes Of Skin Cancer
Different forms of skin cancer develop when there are mutations in the DNA of skin cells. Skin cancer begins with a mutation in the epidermis, which is the top layer of the skin. Cells begin to multiply and grow out of control, eventually forming a cancerous mass.
While various risk factors have been identified, it is not always apparent what factor actually causes skin cell DNA to mutate.
One cause of skin cancer that is clear is exposure to sunlight . The ultraviolet rays in sunlight and tanning beds can cause extensive damage to the DNA in skin cells. In turn, these damaged cells may someday become cancerous. Harmful UV radiation can occur relatively soon before the appearance of skin cancer, but it can also pre-date a cancer diagnosis by many years.
However, UV radiation cant explain skin cancers that occur on body parts that arent exposed to the sun. This suggests that different causes exist for certain cases of skin cancer. Among these causes, for instance, may be a drastic or repeated exposure to toxic substances.
In some cases, a person may inherit genes that lead to melanoma. Certain gene changes received from a parent could cause a failure in the body to control unruly cell growth, eventually resulting in melanoma. These inherited, or familial, melanomas are relatively rare.
What Do The Early Stages Of Skin Cancer Look Like
People can have stages of skin cancer and yet not feel ill, which makes early treatment and diagnosis a little challenging. But by being aware of the early stages of this disease, you can protect yourself and seek effective treatment right away. Do you have scaly patches, raised growths, or sores that do not heal? Dr. Jurzyk from Advanced Dermatology Center in Wolcott, CT can help you identify and treat all types of cancer of the skin, keeping you from fatal complications.
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Abnormal Bleeding Under The Skin
Leukemia disrupts the bodys production of blood cell platelets. Platelets are what help the blood to clot and to stop abnormal bleeding. When platelets become low, bruises can happen more easily. When talking about what does leukemia look like, many of our patients will notice they bruise spontaneously or without much force to warrant a typical bruise.
Leukemia bruises might resemble a normal bruise, but you might find there are more of them than usual. Sometimes, theyll occur in an unusual area of the body, like the back. 3
How Is Scalp Cancer Diagnosed
You might go to your doctor if you notice a suspicious spot on your scalp, or a doctor might notice it during a skin check. No matter how the spot is found, skin cancer diagnosis will happen roughly the same way.
First, your doctor will ask you about your family history of cancer, if you spend a lot of time in the sun, use protection in the sun, and if you use tanning beds. If you noticed the lesion, your doctor may ask if youve noticed any changes over time or if its a new growth.
Then your doctor will do a skin exam to look more closely at the lesion and determine if you need further testing. Theyll look at its size, color, shape, and other features.
If your doctor thinks it might be skin cancer on your scalp, theyll take a biopsy, or small sample, of the growth for testing. This testing can tell your doctor if you have cancer, and if you do, what type. A biopsy might be enough to completely remove a small cancerous growth, especially basal cell carcinoma.
If the spot is cancerous but not basal cell carcinoma, your doctor might recommend more testing to see if it has spread. This will usually include imaging tests of lymph nodes in your head and neck.
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Explore Your Treatment Options In Advance
When it comes to treating skin cancer, especially on the face, many patients worry about the invasiveness of common procedures like Mohs surgery, which could leave a scar. Fortunately, there are other, less invasive treatment methods to consider. Knowing your options ahead of time will help you to feel better prepared to make a decision. Image Guided Superficial Radiotherapy is a non-invasive alternative for treating non-melanoma skin cancers like Basal cell carcinoma and Squamous cell carcinoma. If you would like to learn more about how IG-SRT works, please call GentleCure at 312-987-6543 to speak with a skin cancer information specialist.
Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer impacts the lives of 4 million Americans each year. GentleCure is committed to raising awareness of IG-SRT and is a trademark owned by SkinCure Oncology, LLC.
The information on this website is provided without any representations or warranties. You should not rely on this website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or healthcare provider. The information on this site, as well as any information provided by the skin cancer information specialists on our educational hotline, is intended to help you make a better-informed treatment decision in conjunction with trained and licensed medical professionals.
Dont Mistake Skin Cancer For A Harmless Issue
The importance of the prompt treatment of skin cancer cannot be overstated. Unfortunately, some individuals may mistake skin cancer for other skin problems like a sunspot, pimple, scar, or dry skin. If you are questioning the health of a blemish or mole, you should schedule a skin cancer screening with a dermatologist without delay.
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What You Can Do
If youve already had a BCC, you have an increased chance of developing another, especially in the same sun-damaged area or nearby.
A BCC can recur even when it has been carefully removed the first time, because some cancer cells may remain undetectable after surgery and others can form roots that extend beyond whats visible. BCCs on the nose, ears and lips are more likely to recur, usually within the first two years after surgery.
Heres what you can do to detect a recurrence and safeguard yourself against further skin damage that can lead to cancer:
The Ugly Duckling Method
The ugly duckling method works on the premise that a personâs moles tend to resemble one another. If one mole stands out in any way, it may indicate skin cancer.
Of course, not all moles and growths are cancerous. However, if a person notices any of the above characteristics, they should speak with a doctor.
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How Do You Know If A Spot Is Skin Cancer
You can also read our guide on how to check your skin regularly, if you want to learn more about how to form a skin checking routine for yourself.