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What If I Have Skin Cancer

Treatment For Skin Cancer

i have skin cancer

If you are diagnosed with skin cancer, you may have multiple options for treatment. Based on the specifics of your case, your doctor will recommend your best course of action. The suggested methods for fighting the cancer may include:

  • Cryotherapy. In cryotherapy, a doctor freezes and kills precancerous or cancerous skin cells using liquid nitrogen. This technique is most often used to treat minor basal or squamous carcinomas or precancerous skin conditions.

  • Surgery. Different types of skin cancer may be removed by surgery. Surgery can be excisional – simply cutting out a cancerous area and the skin surrounding it – or may involve meticulous removal of layers of skin.

  • Radiation therapy. In radiation therapy, energy beams are used to kill cancerous cells. Radiation therapy may help finish off a cancer that was not fully removed by surgery, and can also be instrumental in cases that dont allow for surgery.

  • Chemotherapy. This type of therapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. To treat some cases of skin cancer, chemotherapy may be applied locally through topical creams or lotions. It may also be administered by IV to target multiple body parts at once.

  • Immunotherapy. Immunotherapy, also called biological therapy, involves boosting the immune system to fight cancer cells. With the help of strengthening medicines, the immune system may be better prepared to kill cancerous cells.

Are There Different Kinds Of Skin Cancer

There are many types of skin cancer. Your doctor can tell you more about the type of skin cancer you have.

Basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers are much more common than melanoma and dont often spread to other parts of the body. Melanoma is more deadly because it is more likely to spread to other parts of the body.

Warning: Graphic Image Below

If not treated it may eventually cause dramatic disfigurement yet will very rarely metastasize in even the most neglected cases.

Many years of basal cell carcinoma neglect. Apparently this patient didnt know that cancer was eating away at his face.

Squamous cell carcinoma which will likely metastasize if left untreated begins insidiously, appearing first as a faded pink and very flat patchy area on the skin.

A person can go for years without knowing that this usually slow growing skin cancer is progressing.

Many people even in industrialized nations do not check their skin monthly and never get clinical exams and may even be fully aware of a new lesion yet get so used to it that it never dawns on them that its malignant.

There may be the It cant happen to me mindset, along with those who are afraid of what the doctor might find, and those who avoid doctors because they dont have health insurance or because they are cognitively impaired.

Often, people will notice something growing on their face or scalp but chalk it up to older age or benign damage from the sun.

Its possible to have melanoma for several years without knowing it, because some kinds of melanomas grow rather slowly and spread out laterally before they begin burrowing vertically into deeper layers of skin tissue.

Melanoma on the bottom of a foot.

Recommended Reading: How To Identify Basal Cell Carcinoma

My Appointment With A Plastic Surgeon

Unfortunately, when they started showing up, I had a really terrible health insurance policy so I was unable to get them treated. Once I got better insurance and had built up some vacation time at work so I could be off for recovery, I made an appointment with my plastic surgeon.

As I was showing him the areas, he commented wryly that I must have been saving them up for him. In all, there were 22 areas he determined needed to be removed. He had a printout of a body map and marked each area for removal on the paper, which he would bring with him the day of surgery.

What Is The Follow

Do i have skin cancer?

Most skin cancer is cured surgically in the dermatologist’s office. Of skin cancers that do recur, most do so within three years. Therefore, follow up with your dermatologist as recommended. Make an appointment immediately if you suspect a problem.

If you have a more deeply invasive or advanced malignant melanoma, your oncologist may want to see you every few months. These visits may include total body skin examinations, regional lymph node checks, and periodic chest X-rays. Over time, the intervals between follow-up appointments will increase. Eventually these checks may be done only once a year.

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Seek Comprehensive Care If Your Skin Cancer Is Complicated To Treat

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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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Skin Cancer

The most common warning sign of skin cancer is a change on the skin, typically a new mole, a new skin lesion or a change in an existing mole.

  • Basal cell carcinoma may appear as a small, smooth, pearly, or waxy bump on the face, or neck, or as a flat, pink/red- or brown-colored lesion on the trunk, arms or legs.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma can appear as a firm, red nodule, or as a rough, scaly, flat lesion that may itch, bleed and become crusty. Both basal cell and squamous cell cancers mainly occur on areas of the skin frequently exposed to the sun, but can occur anywhere.
  • Melanoma usually appears as a pigmented patch or bump. It may resemble a normal mole, but usually has a more irregular appearance.

When looking for melanoma, think of the ABCDE rule that tells you the signs to watch for:

  • Asymmetry: The shape of one half doesnt match the other.
  • Border: Edges are ragged or blurred.
  • Color: Uneven shades of brown, black, tan, red, white or blue.
  • Diameter: A significant change in size .
  • Evolution: Changes in the way a mole or lesion looks or feels .

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What Changes In The Skin Occur Due To Exposure To The Sun

Exposure to sun causes most of the wrinkles and age spots on our faces. People think a glowing complexion means good health, but skin color obtained from being in the sun can actually speed up the effects of aging and increase the risk of developing skin cancer.

Sun exposure causes most of the skin changes that we think of as a normal part of aging. Over time, the sun’s ultraviolet light damages the fibers in the skin called elastin. When these fibers break down, the skin begins to sag, stretch, and lose its ability to go back into place after stretching. The skin also bruises and tears more easily in addition to taking longer to heal. So while sun damage to the skin may not be apparent when you’re young, it will definitely show later in life. The sun can also cause issues for your eyes, eyelids, and the skin around the eyes.

Changes in the skin related to sun exposure:

  • Precancerous and cancerous skin lesions caused by loss of the skin’s immune function.
  • Benign tumors.
  • Fine and coarse wrinkles.
  • Freckles discolored areas of the skin, called mottled pigmentation and sallowness, yellow discoloration of the skin.
  • Telangiectasias, the dilation of small blood vessels under the skin.
  • Elastosis, the destruction of the elastic tissue causing lines and wrinkles.

You Have A Red Scaly Patch That Won’t Go Away

I have skin cancer

Arthur said both basal and squamous cell carcinoma can show up as scaly red patches. She noted that squamous cell carcinomas can also be a little tender to touch.

Garner added that they can can feel like “irregular sandpaper” when you touch them.

Squamous cell carcinomas could also manifest as sores that won’t heal wart-like growths or elevated growths with indented centers that bleed, according to SCF.

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What Are The Symptoms Of Skin Cancer Of The Head And Neck

Skin cancers usually present as an abnormal growth on the skin. The growth may have the appearance of a wart, crusty spot, ulcer, mole or sore. It may or may not bleed and can be painful. If you have a preexisting mole, any change in the characteristics of this spot – such as a raised or an irregular border, irregular shape, change in color, increase in size, itching or bleeding – are warning signs of melanoma. Sometimes the first sign of melanoma or squamous cell cancer is an enlarged lymph node.

Johns Hopkins Head and Neck Cancer Surgery Specialists

Our head and neck surgeons and speech language pathologists take a proactive approach to cancer treatment. Meet the Johns Hopkins specialists who will work closely with you during your journey.

What To Expect After Skin Cancer Removal

Surgery is a common treatment option for skin cancer and is often performed in the dermatologists office. The type of surgery used depends on your type of skin cancer and how advanced it is.

Your doctor will numb the area with a local anesthetic before surgery. Once this local numbing medicine wears off, its common to feel sore. You may also notice that the surgical site appears red and is draining a small amount of clear fluid.

It is important to follow your dermatologists postoperative directions closely. You will receive instructions on how to clean your surgical site. You may also receive a topical medication to apply before covering the site with a bandage or gauze.

Ask your dermatologist about any activity restrictions after surgery. You will want to avoid putting too much stress on your surgical site in order to protect it.

Some questions to ask your dermatologist or surgeon about your recovery include:

  • How long will the wound take to heal?
  • How long should I keep the wound covered?
  • Do the stitches need to be removed?
  • What medication can I take for pain?
  • When should I follow-up?

Sutures would be removed from the face, where the majority of skin cancers occur, in five to seven days. If absorbable sutures are used, they will be gone in about the same amount of time.

Wound strength would be good in about three weeks. Scar maturation takes several months to a year.

Recommended Reading: Squamous Cell Carcinoma Skin Metastasis

Basal Cell Carcinoma Pictures

Basal cell carcinoma usually appears in areas of the skin previously exposed to high levels of UV radiation such as the head, neck, ears and the back of the arms and hands. It is common in exposed skin of outdoor workers or people who have used sun tanning beds in the past.

As the basal cell carcinoma pictures below indicate, this type of skin cancer usually shows as a fleshy coloured bump that does not disappear over time and tends to grow slowly in size, eventually breaking down and ulcerating.

Below are pictures of skin cancer on the neck, face and trunk . These images show common areas where basal cell carcinoma develops, but it can develop anywhere.

Basal cell carcinoma. The skin cancer pictures in this article were licensed from DermNet NZ

Skin Cancer Of The Head And Neck Treatment

Do i have skin cancer?

Many early-stage small basal cell cancers or squamous cell cancers can be removed by Mohs surgery, a technique that spares normal tissue through repeated intraoperative margin testing, removing only the cancer and leaving adjacent normal tissue. Tumors with nerve involvement, lymph node involvement or of a large size are not suitable for Mohs surgery. They require a multimodality approach to treatment, with formal surgical resection and adjuvant radiation or chemotherapy.

Melanoma is more likely to spread, and aggressive surgical resection with wide margins is required, in addition to radiation and/or chemotherapy.

Johns Hopkins Head and Neck Cancer Surgery

Johns Hopkins Head and Neck Cancer Surgery provides comprehensive surgical care and treatment for head and neck cancers. Our surgeons are at the leading edge of head and neck cancer treatment. You will benefit from the skilled care of head and neck surgeons, guiding clinical advancements in the field of head and neck cancer care.

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What Is My Skin Type

Skin types that are more sensitive to ultraviolet radiation burn more quickly and are at a greater risk of skin cancer.

All skin types can be damaged by too much UV radiation. Skin types that are more sensitive to UV radiation burn more quickly and are at a greater risk of skin cancer.

People with naturally very dark skin still need to take care in the sun even though they may rarely, if ever, get sunburnt. The larger amount of melanin in very dark skin provides natural protection from UV radiation. This means the risk of skin cancer is lower.

Eye damage can occur regardless of skin type. High levels of UV radiation have also been linked to harmful effects on the immune system.

Vitamin D deficiency may be a greater health concern for people with naturally very dark skin, as it is more difficult for people with this skin type to make vitamin D.

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.

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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.

Tips For Screening Moles For Cancer

Finding out if THIS is (skin) CANCER

Examine your skin on a regular basis. A common location for melanoma in men is on the back, and in women, the lower leg. But check your entire body for moles or suspicious spots once a month. Start at your head and work your way down. Check the “hidden” areas: between fingers and toes, the groin, soles of the feet, the backs of the knees. Check your scalp and neck for moles. Use a handheld mirror or ask a family member to help you look at these areas. Be especially suspicious of a new mole. Take a photo of moles and date it to help you monitor them for change. Pay special attention to moles if you’re a teen, pregnant, or going through menopause, times when your hormones may be surging.

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How Are Moles Evaluated

If you find a mole or spot that has any ABCDE’s of melanoma — or one that’s tender, itching, oozing, scaly, doesn’t heal or has redness or swelling beyond the mole — see a doctor. Your doctor may want to remove a tissue sample from the mole and biopsy it. If found to be cancerous, the entire mole and a rim of normal skin around it will be removed and the wound stitched closed. Additional treatment may be needed.

When Melanoma Cant 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.

Recommended Reading: What Does Basal Cell Carcinoma Look Like When It Starts

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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.

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