Can I Lower My Risk Of Cancer Coming Back Or Getting New Skin Cancers
If you have skin cancer, you probably want to know if there are things you can do that might lower your risk of the cancer coming back, or of getting a new skin cancer.
People who have had skin cancer are at higher risk for developing another skin cancer. Because of this, its important to limit your exposure to UV rays Rays?) and to examine your skin every month for signs of possible new skin cancers. Seeing your doctor regularly for skin exams is also important. Skin cancers that are found early are typically much easier to treat than those found at a later stage.
Smoking has been linked to an increased risk of squamous cell skin cancer, as well as to many other types of cancer. If you smoke and are thinking about quitting, call the American Cancer Society for information and support at 1-800-227-2345.
Adopting other healthy behaviors such as eating well, being active, and staying at a healthy weight might help as well, but no one knows for sure. However, we do know that these types of changes can have positive effects on your health, including lowering your risk for many other types of cancer, as well as other diseases.
Leaving Squamous Cell Carcinoma Untreated
The third type of skin cancer we have to be cautious of in Australia is squamous cell carcinoma. This is potentially life threatening and is most dangerous when found on the face, lips, ears or neck. As it grows, there is the chance it may spread to the lymph nodes and internal organs, and while it isnt as fast growing as melanoma, it still requires treatment.
You may notice squamous cell carcinoma in the top layer of your skin and it will likely be red and scaly. Surgery is often used for removal, but if it has progressed significantly some reconstruction to the face may be needed. This is the second most common form of skin cancer, and can be quite painful to touch.
All skin cancer has the potential to be fatal, and regular checks and any necessary treatment is recommended. Melanoma is by far the most serious form of skin cancer, and if suspected you should seek an urgent skin check. Please contact My Skin Centre to book your appointment in the Perth region.
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How Serious Is Basal Cell Skin Cancer
Doru Paul, MD, is triple board-certified in medical oncology, hematology, and internal medicine. He is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and attending physician in the Department of Hematology and Oncology at the New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center.
Basal cell skin cancer, also called basal cell carcinoma, is usually very curable, but it can cause disfigurement and complications if it’s not treated. In the majority of cases, basal cell carcinoma is very treatable.
It is unusual for basal cell carcinoma to cause death. Approximately 2,000 people in the U.S. die each year from basal and squamous skin cancers. In most cases, people who die from these types of skin cancer tend to be older, immunosuppressed, or have been diagnosed at a very late stage.
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How Does The Doctor Know I Have Skin Cancer
Basal and squamous skin cancer may look like:
- Flat, firm, pale or yellow areas that look a lot like a scar
- Raised reddish patches that might itch
- Rough or scaly red patches, which might crust or bleed
- Small, pink or red, shiny, pearly bumps, which might have blue, brown, or black areas
- Pink growths or lumps with raised edges and a lower center
- Open sores that dont heal, or that heal and then come back
- Wart-like growths
Living As A Basal Or Squamous Cell Skin Cancer Survivor
For most people with basal or squamous cell skin cancers, treatment will remove or destroy the cancer. Completing treatment can be both stressful and exciting. You may be relieved to finish treatment, but find it hard not to worry about cancer growing or coming back. This is very common if youve had cancer.
For a small number of people with more advanced skin cancers, the cancer may never go away completely. These people may get regular treatment with radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or other treatments to help keep the cancer in check for as long as possible. Learning to live with cancer that does not go away can be difficult and very stressful.
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Moving On After Skin Cancer
Some amount of feeling depressed, anxious, or worried is normal after being diagnosed with cancer. Some people are affected more than others. But everyone can benefit from help and support from other people, whether friends and family, religious groups, support groups, professional counselors, or others. Learn more in Life After Cancer.
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.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Basal Cell Carcinoma
Almost all BCCs develop on parts of the body frequently exposed to the sun. Tumors can develop on the face, ears, shoulders, neck, scalp, and arms. In very rare cases, tumors develop on areas not often exposed to sunlight.
BCCs are typically painless. The only symptom is the growth or change in the appearance of the skin. There are different types of BCC. Each has a different appearance:
Skin cancers, including BCC, are primarily caused by long-term sun or ultraviolet light exposure. These cancers can also be caused by intense occasional exposure often resulting in sunburn.
In rarer cases, other factors can cause BCC. These include:
- exposure to radiation
The Most Common Skin Cancer
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer and the most frequently occurring form of all cancers. In the U.S. alone, an estimated 3.6 million cases are diagnosed each year. BCCs arise from abnormal, uncontrolled growth of basal cells.
Because BCCs grow slowly, most are curable and cause minimal damage when caught and treated early. Understanding BCC causes, risk factors and warning signs can help you detect them early, when they are easiest to treat and cure.
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What Is Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma is a cancer that grows on parts of your skin that get a lot of sun. It’s natural to feel worried when your doctor tells you that you have it, but keep in mind that it’s the least risky type of skin cancer. As long as you catch it early, you can be cured.
This cancer is unlikely to spread from your skin to other parts of your body, but it can move nearby into bone or other tissue under your skin. Several treatments can keep that from happening and get rid of the cancer.
The tumors start off as small shiny bumps, usually on your nose or other parts of your face. But you can get them on any part of your body, including your trunk, legs, and arms. If you’ve got fair skin, you’re more likely to get this skin cancer.
Basal cell carcinoma usually grows very slowly and often doesn’t show up for many years after intense or long-term exposure to the sun. You can get it at a younger age if you’re exposed to a lot of sun or use tanning beds.
How Is Basal Cell Carcinoma Diagnosed
The first step in diagnosing BCC will be a visual inspection from a dermatologist. Theyll check your skin head-to-toe to look for any skin growths or discolorations. Theyll also ask about your medical history, including family history of skin cancers.
If your dermatologist finds any discolorations or growths of concern, theyll take a biopsy of the skin. To do this, theyll inject a numbing agent into the skin before removing a small sample of the lesion for testing. The biopsy will be viewed under a microscope to look for skin cancer.
Your dermatologist will remove the growth if BCC is found. If you have an aggressive form of BCC, your doctor may take a biopsy of your lymph nodes to check for metastasis.
Treatment for basal cell carcinoma involves removing the growth. Your doctor will recommend a treatment depending on the type of BCC you have, the size of the lesion, and the location of the lesion. Treatment options include:
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What Happens If Basal Cell Carcinoma Goes Untreated
If there is a silver lining associated with being diagnosed with BCC, it would be that it is one of only a few cancers that seldom metastasizes to other organs in the body and is rarely fatal. However, complications can occur if individuals do not seek prompt medical treatment. According to most dermatologists and oncologists with top-tier medical practices, such as skin cancer reconstructive surgery and facial reconstruction surgery, untreated BCC can give way to large tumors. The cancerous tissue can become deeply embedded under the skin and can cause damage to bones, all of which can result in disfigurement. If they grow too large, these tumors can put a strain on certain organs in the body, which can put ones life in danger.
Do I Need Medical Treatment
While basal cell carcinoma is a relatively mild form of skin cancer that is unlikely to metastasize or cause secondary health concerns, medical supervision is advised for any type of cancer. A qualified professional can help you determine the severity of your condition and suggest an appropriate course of treatment.
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Ask Your Doctor For A Survivorship Care Plan
Talk with your doctor about developing a survivorship care plan for you. This plan might include:
- A suggested schedule for follow-up exams and tests
- A schedule for other tests you might need in the future, such as early detection tests for other types of cancer, or tests to look for long-term health effects from your cancer or its treatment
- A list of possible late- or long-term side effects from your treatment, including what to watch for and when you should contact your doctor
- Diet and physical activity suggestions
What Happens If Melanoma Is Left Untreated
Even though this form of skin cancer impacts a relatively low percentage of patients, melanoma skin cancers make up the majority of skin cancer deaths. Melanoma lesions often look like moles, freckles, or sunspots, and they may even develop within an existing mark on your body. Unlike other forms of skin cancer that are slow to progress and unlikely to spread to other areas, melanoma advances quickly and can form or spread anywhere on the body. In order to diagnose melanoma in the earliest stages, patients need to remember the ABCDEFs of melanoma, as discussed above.
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What Is The Treatment For Advanced Or Metastatic Basal Cell Carcinoma
Locally advanced primary, recurrent or metastatic BCC requires multidisciplinary consultation. Often a combination of treatments is used.
- Targeted therapy
Targeted therapy refers to the hedgehog signalling pathway inhibitors, vismodegib and sonidegib. These drugs have some important risks and side effects.
What Happens When Skin Cancer Goes Untreated
If you notice an abnormality on your skin you may be tempted to ignore it. However, if it is skin cancer you could be putting your health at risk by waiting to get a skin and mole check. There are three main types of skin cancer in Australia with melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, and they each have their own set of unique characteristics. The most important thing to remember is that if you delay treatment of skin cancer it could have life threatening consequences:
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If The Cancer Comes Back
If your cancer does come back at some point, your treatment options will depend on where the cancer is and what treatments youve had before. If the cancer comes back just on the skin, options might include surgery, radiation therapy, or other types of local treatments. If the cancer comes back in another part of the body, other treatments such as targeted therapy, immunotherapy, or chemotherapy might be needed. For more general information on dealing with a recurrence, see our Recurrence section.
How Can You Tell You Might Have Bcc
BCC can produce noticeable changes in your skin that will not heal on their own. You may notice a lesion on the skin with a raised border, for example. A scaly patch or a wax-like texture may also develop over the lesion. Sometimes, you might notice a skin-colored bump with a slightly translucent body. You could spot some blood vessels in the area.
You can contact Dr. Boucher at Lone Star State Dermatology Clinic in San Antonio or Live Oak, TX if you suspect you have any of these concerns on your skin. During a full-body skin examination, our experts can review your skin and identify any concerning spots that require treatment.
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Recurrent Basal Cell Carcinoma
Recurrent basal cell carcinoma refers to cancer that has come back after treatment and a period of time during which there is no trace of the cancer. Although basal cell carcinoma has an excellent cure rate, it is not uncommon for patients to develop multiple lesions during their lifetimes. People who have already had one skin cancer have a higher risk of developing additional skin cancers in the future, so anyone who has been diagnosed with one basal cell carcinoma should be especially watchful for signs of recurrence.
Most recurrences happen within three to five years of a patients original diagnosis. Although anyone can experience a basal cell carcinoma recurrence, several studies have shown recurrence is more likely in:
- People who had a history of eczema
- People who were exposed to high doses of UV light in their teens, 20s and 30s
- People whose original carcinomas were larger than 2 centimeters
- People whose original carcinomas were several layers deep in the skin
Although its impossible to predict whether basal cell carcinoma will come back, people who have undergone treatment for one lesion are often advised to schedule regular follow-up visits with their oncologists and/or dermatologists. These people should also consistently check for unusual changes in their skin and report any abnormalities to their physician right away.
Can You Die From Basal Cell Carcinoma
Death from either basal cell or squamous cell cancers is quite rare. Statistics for these types of skin cancer arent tracked by cancer registries, so its difficult to have specific numbers, but its thought that less than 2,000 people in the U.S. die from both basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas each year.
These deaths are predominantly in elderly people who have not had their skin checked in a long time and cancer has grown quite large.
Considering there are over 4 million diagnosed cases of basal cell carcinoma each year in the U.S. , the risk of death from this form of skin cancer is quite low.
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More Information About Basal Cell Carcinoma
The following are some English-language resources that may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of these resources.
See the following sites for comprehensive information about basal cell carcinoma, including detection, prevention, treatment options, and other resources:
When Should I See My Doctor
If you have had one BCC, you have a 50% chance of developing another one, so it is important to check your skin regularly.
Most people find BCCs by checking their own skin and looking for changes. See a doctor if you find:
- a spot that is different from other spots on your skin
- a spot that has changed size, shape, colour or texture
- a sore that doesnt heal
- a sore that is itchy or bleeds
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How Successful Is Basal Cell Carcinoma Treatment
Mohs micrographic surgery has the best cure rates with basal cell carcinoma, a 99 percent cure rate for carcinomas that are not returning growths. The cure rate when basal cell carcinomas are removed with wide excision can be as high as 98 percent. With curettage and electrodesiccation, the rate is from 91 to 97 percent.
Basal cell carcinoma is not considered life-threatening in almost all cases. It is simply disfiguring.
Skin Cancer Diagnosis & Treatment
On skin cancer diagnosis, Dr. Truong says, To the untrained eye, skin cancer can mimic the appearance of natural irregularities or other common skin conditions. The deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma, may look like a mole, therefore, it is very important to note new growths or changing lesions, and to bring them to the attention of your dermatologist. A skin biopsy may be needed for a definitive diagnosis.
Once a patient receives a definitive skin cancer diagnosis, treatment planning begins. The treatment depends on the type of skin cancer, the size, location, and level of aggressiveness. The main methods of treatment include surgery, radiation, and light-based treatments.
Surgery is the most common and effective treatment for most skin cancers. Depending on the size, aggressiveness, and location of the skin cancer, a wide local excision or Mohs micrographic surgery may be recommended. Both surgeries are minimally invasive and usually done under local anesthesia. Mohs Micrographic Surgery is a specialized skin cancer surgery designed to remove skin cancers on sensitive areas such as the head and neck. The surgery removes skin cancer completely while preserving as much healthy skin as possible. The cancerous lesion is removed layer by layer, and the margins of each specimen are examined by your Mohs surgeon while you wait. Due to the on-site 100% margin evaluation, cure rates are superior and more healthy skin can be preserved, minimizing the scar.
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