Prognosis For Skin Cancer
It is not possible for a doctor to predict the exact course of a disease. However, your doctor may give you the likely outcome of the disease. If detected early, most skin cancers are successfully treated.
Most non-melanoma skin cancers do not pose a serious risk to your health but a cancer diagnosis can be a shock. If you want to talk to someone see your doctor. You can also call Cancer Council 13 11 20.
What To Do If You Receive A Skin Cancer Diagnosis
Once a skin biopsy confirms skin cancer, your doctor will recommend a treatment based on the stage of the cancer.
To improve your outlook, its important that you complete your treatment and schedule follow-up appointments as needed. Your doctor may want to see you every few months to make sure the cancer hasnt returned.
Also schedule annual skin exams with a dermatologist. Get into the habit of checking your own skin for abnormal growths, too. This includes your back, scalp, soles of feet, and ears.
You can also ask your doctor about local support groups for those with skin cancer, or search for support programs in your area.
Types Of Skin Malignancies:
- Melanoma the least common form of skin cancer, but responsible for more deaths per year than squamous cell and basal cell skin cancers combined. Melanoma is also more likely to spread and may be harder to control.
- Nonmelanoma malignancies:
These skin malignancies are typically caused by ultraviolet radiation from exposure to the sun and tanning beds.
Recommended Reading: How Do You Feel With Skin Cancer
It Depends On The Type Of Skin Cancer
How skin cancer affects the body heavily depends on the type of skin cancer that occurs. There are three common types:
Squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma skin cancers rarely have spread elsewhere in the body, most are small and frozen or removed by the dermatologist. Others are resected by a surgeon or radiated. For melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer, surgery is the main treatment.;
Donât Miss: What Is The Most Aggressive Skin Cancer
Get To Know Your Skin
It is also a good idea to talk to your doctor about your level of risk and for advice on early detection.
Its important to get to know your skin and what is normal for you, so that you notice any changes. Skin cancers rarely hurt and are much more frequently seen than felt.
Develop a regular habit of checking your skin for new spots and changes to existing freckles or moles.
Read Also: Do You Need Chemo For Melanoma
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
Causes Of Skin Cancer
Most skin cancers are caused by skin damage that happens from exposure to the sun. The damage can happen from sun exposure over a long period of time or from a history of getting sunburnt.
People with a history of sunburn or overexposure to the sun in childhood also have a greater risk of developing both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Because people are living longer, they are exposed to more sun over their lifetimes.
You May Like: What Does Basal Cell Carcinoma Mean
Basal Cell And Squamous Cell Carcinomas
Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the most common types of cancer, but also the least likely to spread. In particular, BCCs rarely spread beyond the initial tumor site. However, left untreated, BCCs can grow deeper into the skin and damage surrounding skin, tissue, and bone. Occasionally, a BCC can become aggressive, spreading to other parts of the body and even becoming life threatening. Also, the longer you wait to have your BCC treated, the more likely it is to return after treatment. Like BCCs, SCCs are highly curable when caught and treated early. However, if left to develop without treatment, an SCC can become invasive to skin and tissue beyond the original skin cancer site, causing disfigurement and even death. Over 15,000 Americans die each year from SCCs. And even if untreated carcinomas dont result in death, they can lead to large, open lesions on the skin that can cause discomfort, embarrassment, and infection.
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.
Don’t Miss: What Are The Types Of Skin Cancer
What Are The Signs Of Melanoma
Knowing how to spot melanoma is important because early melanomas are highly treatable. Melanoma can appear as moles, scaly patches, open sores or raised bumps.
Use the American Academy of Dermatologys ABCDE memory device to learn the warning signs that a spot on your skin may be melanoma:
- Asymmetry: One half does not match the other half.
- Border: The edges are not smooth.
- Color: The color is mottled and uneven, with shades of brown, black, gray, red or white.
- Diameter: The spot is greater than the tip of a pencil eraser .
- Evolving: The spot is new or changing in size, shape or color.
Some melanomas dont fit the ABCDE rule, so tell your doctor about any sores that wont go away, unusual bumps or rashes or changes in your skin or in any existing moles.
Another tool to recognize melanoma is the ugly duckling sign. If one of your moles looks different from the others, its the ugly duckling and should be seen by a dermatologist.
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.
Don’t Miss: What Is Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Risk Of Further Melanomas
Most people treated for early melanoma do not have further trouble with the disease. However, when there is a chance that the melanoma may have spread to other parts of your body, you will need regular check-ups.;Your doctor will decide how often you will need check-ups everyone is different. They will become less frequent if you have no further problems.;After treatment for melanoma it is important to limit exposure to the sun’s UV radiation.;As biological family members usually share similar traits, your family members may also have an increased risk of developing melanoma and other skin cancers. They can reduce their risk by spending less time in the sun and using a combination of sun protection measures during sun protection times.;It is important to monitor your skin regularly and if you notice any changes in your skin, or enlarged lymph glands near to where you had the cancer, see your specialist as soon as possible.;
Treating Stage 4 Melanoma
If melanoma comes back or spreads to other organs it’s called stage 4 melanoma.
In the past,;cure from stage 4 melanoma was very rare but new treatments, such as immunotherapy and targeted treatments, show encouraging results.
Treatment for stage 4 melanoma is given in the hope that it can slow the cancer’s growth, reduce symptoms, and extend life expectancy.
You may be offered surgery to remove other melanomas that have grown away from the original site. You may also be able to have other treatments to help with your symptoms, such as radiotherapy;and medicine.
If you have advanced melanoma, you may decide not to have treatment if it’s unlikely to significantly extend your life expectancy, or if you do not have symptoms that cause pain or discomfort.
It’s entirely your decision and your treatment team will respect it. If you decide not to receive treatment, pain relief and nursing care will be made available when you need it. This is called palliative care.
Don’t Miss: How Can You Tell If You Have Skin Cancer
What Happens If You Let Skin Cancer Go Untreated
Many patients who are diagnosed with skin cancer, especially in the earliest stages, find themselves wondering whether treatment is really necessary. Skin cancer, like other forms of cancer, is serious and requires proper treatment. According to Dr. Valerie Truong of U.S. Dermatology Partners in Dallas, Plano, Sherman, and Corsicana, Texas, The visible part of skin cancer can often be like the tip of an iceberg. What you see on the surface is only a small percentage of the actual cancer. Even if the skin cancer appears to be negligible, there is always a risk that it will grow and spread. I recommend that people who suspect they have skin cancer get a skin check for an earlier diagnosis, and therefore, earlier treatment. In this blog, Dr. Truong talks more about what happens if you let skin cancer go untreated and the potential risks that may arise for skin health as well as overall health and well-being.
Treating Stage 1 To 2 Melanoma
Treating stage 1 melanoma involves surgery to remove the melanoma and a small area of skin around it. This is known as surgical excision.
Surgical excision;is usually;done;using local anaesthetic, which means you’ll be awake, but the area around the melanoma will be numbed, so you will not feel pain. In some cases, general anaesthetic is used, which means you’ll be unconscious during the procedure.
If a surgical excision is likely to leave a significant scar, it may be done in combination with a skin graft. However, skin flaps are now more commonly used because the scars are usually less noticeable than those resulting from a skin graft.
Read more about flap surgery.
In most cases, once the melanoma has been removed there’s little possibility of it returning and no further treatment should be needed. Most people are monitored for 1 to 5 years and are then discharged with no further problems.
Recommended Reading: What Are Symptoms Of Melanoma That Has Spread
Articles On Skin Cancer
Skin cancer — abnormal cell changes in the outer layer of skin — is by far the most common cancer in the world. It can usually be cured, but the disease is a major health concern because it affects so many people. About half of fair-skinned people who live to age 65 will have at least one skin cancer. Most can be prevented by protecting your skin from the sun and ultraviolet rays.
Every malignant skin tumor will, over time, show up on the skin‘s surface. That makes this the only type of cancer that is almost always found in its early, curable stages.
Ask About Your Skin Cancer Treatment Options
Among the most common treatments for facial skin cancer is Mohs surgery. Mohs involves removing the cancer in thin layers. This approach helps preserve surrounding healthy tissue and has a very high cure rate.
Mohs can be a lengthy process, taking several hours or longer, says Dr. Lee. I do everything I can to keep my patients comfortable and inform them of how things are going at each step.
Dr. Lee adds that not everyone with skin cancer on the face will need Mohs surgery. There may be other treatment options that are right for you. Its OK to ask. And if you do have options, ask your doctor to explain the pros and cons of each before you make your decision, she says.
Sometimes Mohs really is the best option for facial cancer, however. Thats typically the case with skin cancer on the nose or eyelid. The nose and the eyelid are tougher areas to treat for a variety of reasons, says Dr. Lee. It takes finesse to achieve excellent cosmetic results in these areas. Removing a cancer from the eyelid also has a lot of challenges related to how the eyelid functions and feels to the patient after the surgery.
Recommended Reading: What Does Skin Cancer On The Face Look Like
Am I At Risk Of Skin Cancer
Everyone is at some risk of developing skin cancer. Your risk increases as you grow older. Most skin cancers are caused by over-exposure to the suns ultraviolet radiation.
Your risk of skin cancer increases if you:
- have someone in your family who has had skin cancer
- have had bad sunburn before
- have fair skin
- have many moles on your skin
- spend a lot of time outdoors without sun protection or work outdoors
- have used solariums or sun lamps
- have a compromised immune system or are taking immunosuppression medication
You can also use this online calculator to work out your likely risk of melanoma.
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.
Read Also: How Quickly Can Melanoma Appear
Consult A Dermatologist Immediately
The wait times to see a dermatologist are now two-and-a-half months . These wait times are often even longer for conditions like skin cancer, which are often paid for by insurance, as some dermatologists want to maximize out-of-pocket procedures, like Botox or chemical peels.
NBC News went so far as to say that the ridiculous wait times to see a derm could literally, leave you dying to be seen .
Thankfully, there is;Dermatologist on Call, a 24/7 service available online. For just $59, you can get to consult a board-certified dermatologist.;You will upload photos of your condition and submit.;The vast majority will receive a response within 11 hours, but you are guaranteed a response and full treatment plan within;36 hours. Best of all, you will have access to the dermatologist for 30 days.
I am a huge believer in Dermatologist On Call, and Im happy to;talk about it every chance I get. I met the founder and CEO several times, and Im very inspired. I think this is a huge part of the future of dermatology.
Avoid Harsh Skin Care Ingredients Near Or On The Suspicious Site
Im all for increasing the rate of cellular turnover in the skin Retinoids, for instance, are known to increase cellular turnover and result in fresh, less lined skin . And we all know how fresh we look after an alpha hydroxy acid-based chemical peel, especially at concentrations of 15% or higher. Ooo la la!
But as much as I am for anti-aging, cell turnover-increasing ingredients, keep in mind that skin cancer is a form of;cancer, indicative of uncontrolled cell growth and maturation. I would personally go back to a very basic cleanser and moisturizer near and on the suspicious site. I also would personally;avoid agents that are known to aggravate the skin, including:
- Alpha hydroxy acids
- Beta hydroxy acids
- DNA repair enzymes
Do Not Judge The Asymmetry Border Color And Diameter Of A Mole Yourself
In the age of WebMD, it seems were all typing in our symptoms, trying to figure out what we have or what we should do.
But when it comes to skin cancer, even MDs have issues. In fact, when using the blind eye, primary care physicians detect skin cancer with about half the accuracy of dermatologists . In the study, primary care residents failed 50% of the time to diagnose correctly both nonmelanoma and melanoma skin cancers, and 33% of the time they failed to recommend biopsies for cancerous lesions.
If physicians have these issues, I am willing to bet the average person would have even worse accuracy. Please, do not try to diagnose your own;mole or suspicious lesion.