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.
What Is A Primary Care Providers Role In Treating Skin Cancer
Primary care providers provide preventive care and health education.1 They diagnose and treat some medical problems. They refer patients to specialists for others. Primary care doctors include internists, family physicians, pediatricians, geriatricians, and gynecologists. Nurse practitioners and physician assistants provide primary care as well.1 They are not doctors, but they have advanced medical training.
Some primary care providers are trained to recognize skin cancer. Some primary care providers perform full-body skin examinations. Others may look for signs of skin cancer while examining you for other reasons. Primary care providers may counsel about sun protection. Your primary care provider may biopsy a suspicious lesion or refer you to a dermatologist.2
Your Skin Cancer Care Team: Dermatologist Oncologist & Specialists
UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is the only Comprehensive Cancer Center in the region designated by the National Cancer Institute.
Our melanoma experts and skin cancer specialists are some of the most highly trained experts in the world. We offer a multidisciplinary approach to skin cancer care with cutting-edge therapies. UPMC clinical trials, for example, offer treatments that may be unavailable elsewhere.
If you’re diagnosed with skin cancer, you’ll have a whole team of health care professionals taking care of you. Each one has a specific role to play in your treatment.
Your care team may consist of the following skin cancer specialists.
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What Kind Of Doctor Treats Skin Cancer
At Banner MD Anderson, we recognize that no two skin cancers are alike. Therefore, our multidisciplinary team of experts works together to create the best treatment plans possible to meet the needs of every individual affected by skin cancer. The team may include a dermatologist, a surgical oncologist, a medical oncologist and other health care professionals.
How Are Skin Cancers Diagnosed
During a physical exam, a dermatologist will identify bumps or growths that may be cancerous and perform a skin biopsy, if necessary, to learn more. A skin biopsy is a quick, in-office procedure. The area of concern is numbed with a local anesthetic, and a small tissue sample is removed. It is then evaluated under a microscope by a dermatopathologist who will determine if the growth is malignant or benign . Biopsy results come back in about a week or so.
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Tests That May Be Done
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.
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.
Should I Go To A Skin Cancer Clinic
Skin cancer clinics offer a variety of services and fee arrangements. They are usually run by GPs who have an interest in skin cancer.
Research shows that clinics may not offer a higher level of skill than your GP. In deciding whether to attend a skin clinic, consider:
- the qualifications and experience of the medical staff this includes whether they are members of a professional association related to treating skin cancer
- what you will have to pay and whether it is covered by Medicare some clinics bulk-bill the first consultation but require up-front payment for other appointments or surgery others require up-front payment for all services
- the range of services offered
- the follow-up provided.
Cancer Council does not operate or recommend any skin cancer clinics, and does not recommend any individual specialists.
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What Kind Of Doctor Should I See First
Some dermatologists have experience in treating skin cancer and skin cancer surgery. In some cases the skin cancer can be removed quickly and easily by a dermatologist and no further treatment is needed, but regular follow up is recommended.
If your skin cancer will require further treatment after removal, or if the skin cancer is located in an area thats difficult to operate on, an oncologist may be the best option. A skin cancer oncologist is most familiar with all of the various cancer treatment drugs, clinical trials, radiation treatments, and supportive care services that cancer patients may need during treatment.
Your oncologist will spend time with you and your loved ones to understand your specific situation and will consult with the Compass Oncology team of skin cancer experts to develop a specific treatment plan for youbased on if you have melanoma or nonmelanoma skin cancer. They will connect you with additional specialists as needed, including:
- Skin cancer surgeon and/or plastic surgeon.
- Radiation oncologist who can offer external radiation therapy, called brachytherapy.
- Oncology nurses who are familiar with the skin cancer treatment process, side effects and how to best manage them.
Can You Have Melanoma For Years And Not Know
How long can you have melanoma and not know it? It depends on the type of melanoma. For example, nodular melanoma grows rapidly over a matter of weeks, while a radial melanoma can slowly spread over the span of a decade. Like a cavity, a melanoma may grow for years before producing any significant symptoms.
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What Is Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is a specific form of cancer that develops most often on skin exposed to the sun. The three main skin cancer types are:
- Basal cell carcinoma. The most common cancer form. Found in the deepest part of your skins outermost layer.
- Squamous cell carcinoma. Develops in the flat, outer skin cells.
- Melanoma. A malignant tumor that forms in the melanin-forming cells. Often appears as dark brown or black moles on your skin.
How Often Should You Get A Skin Cancer Exam
Experts disagree on this question. Some medical groups say you should only get a screening if you have suspicious moles or you have a high chance of getting melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.
Others recommend a yearly screening for people who are at high risk for skin cancer. A few things make you more likely to get it:
- Blond or red hair, light eye color, and skin that freckles or sunburns easily
- People in your family have had melanoma
- Youve had unusual moles in the past
- Youve had sunburns before, especially any that blistered
- Youve used tanning beds
- You have more than 50 moles or any that look irregular
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What Is A Dermatologists Role In Treating Skin Cancer
A dermatologist is a doctor trained to treat problems of the skin, hair, nails, and mucous membranes.3 Dermatologists may have experience with skin cancer.
Dermatologists play an important role in skin cancer screening. Your dermatologist can perform a full-body skin exam. Dermatologists are trained to use an instrument called a dermatoscope. A dermatoscope is a special magnifying glass. It helps your doctor to see skin structures that are invisible to the naked eye. Many dermatologists photograph lesions. The photographs allow them to track changes over time. Your dermatologist can teach you how to do a skin self-examination.
Dermatologists perform skin biopsy procedures. When the biopsy results come back, your dermatologist will interpret the report for you. Together, you and your dermatologist will develop a treatment plan. Many skin cancers can be treated by your dermatologists in the office.
A Mohs surgeon is a dermatologist with advanced training in Mohs surgery.3 A Mohs surgeon usually works in an office. Mohs surgery is an outpatient procedure.4
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Treating Stage I Melanoma
Stage I melanoma is typically treated by wide excision . The width of the margin depends on the thickness and location of the melanoma. Most often, no other treatment is needed.
Some doctors may recommend a sentinel lymph node biopsy to look for cancer in nearby lymph nodes, especially if the melanoma is stage IB or has other characteristics that make it more likely to have spread. You and your doctor should discuss this option.
If the SLNB does not find cancer cells in the lymph nodes, then no further treatment is needed, although close follow-up is still important.
If cancer cells are found on the SLNB, a lymph node dissection might be recommended. Another option might be to watch the lymph nodes closely by getting an ultrasound of the nodes every few months.
If the SLNB found cancer, adjuvant treatment with an immune checkpoint inhibitor or targeted therapy drugs might be recommended to try to lower the chance the melanoma will come back. Other drugs or perhaps vaccines might also be options as part of a clinical trial.
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Referral To A Skin Cancer Specialist
Your GP should arrange for you to see a specialist if you have symptoms that could be due to certain types of non melanoma skin cancer. Depending on your symptoms and other factors, this might be an urgent referral.
Some GPs have had special training and are able to treat a type of skin cancer called basal cell cancer . So you might not need a referral to see a specialist.
Referral To The Specialist Skin Cancer Mdt
Your GP or doctor from the Local Hospital Skin Cancer MDT will refer you to the Specialist Skin Cancer MDT if you:
- have a rare skin cancer
- have SCC or melanoma that is at higher risk of coming back or has come back
- have any type of skin cancer that has spread to another part of your body
- need treatment that the Local Hospital Skin Cancer MDT doesn’t provide
- are taking part in a clinical trial
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What The Doctor Is Looking For
During a skin cancer screening, your doctor is checking for the ABCDEs of each mole, which are all possible signs of skin cancer:
- Asymmetry: Not the same shape on both sides
- Border irregularity: Ragged or blurred edges
- Color: Different shades of tan, brown, or black
- Diameter: Larger than 1/4 inch
- Evolving: Changes over time
Your doctor will also check for actinic keratosis, skin changes caused by sun damage that, without treatment, can turn into cancer.
Why Does Skin Cancer Occur In More Non
Scientists dont fully know why people of skin with color develop cancer in non-sun-exposed areas, such as their hands and feet. They think that the sun is less of a factor though. However, dermatologists still see plenty of UV sunlight-induced melanomas and squamous cell skin cancer in people of color, in skin tones ranging from fair to very dark.
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How Common Is Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in the U.S.
Other skin cancer facts:
- Around 20% of Americans develop skin cancer sometime in their life.
- Approximately 9,500 Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer every day.
- Having five or more sunburns in your life doubles your chance of developing melanoma. The good news is that the five-year survival rate is 99% if caught and treated early.
- Non-Hispanic white persons have almost a 30 times higher rate of skin cancer than non-Hispanic Black or Asian/Pacific Islander persons.
- Skin cancer in people with skin of color is often diagnosed in later stages when its more difficult to treat. Some 25% of melanoma cases in African Americans are diagnosed when cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
Skin Cancer Diagnosis Always Requires A Skin Biopsy
When you see a dermatologist because youve found a spot that might be skin cancer, your dermatologist will examine the spot.
If the spot looks like it could be a skin cancer, your dermatologist will remove it all or part of it. This can easily be done during your appointment. The procedure that your dermatologist uses to remove the spot is called a skin biopsy.
Having a skin biopsy is essential. Its the only way to know whether you have skin cancer. Theres no other way to know for sure.
What your dermatologist removes will be looked at under a microscope. The doctor who examines the removed skin will look for cancer cells. If cancer cells are found, your biopsy report will tell you what type of skin cancer cells were found. When cancer cells arent found, your biopsy report will explain what was seen under the microscope.
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Uv Light And Other Possible Causes
Much of the DNA damage in skin cells is caused by ultraviolet radiation, which is found in sunlight and tanning bed lights. But exposure to the sun does not explain the causes of skin cancer that appear on skin not commonly exposed to sunlight. This indicates that other factors may play a role in the risk of skin cancer, such as being exposed to toxic substances or having a condition that weakens the immune system.
Questions About Your Skin Cancer Treatment
Treatment for skin cancer often varies depending on the type, location, stage and/or other factors. Below are answers to some common questions about available treatments for skin cancer and melanoma:
What are my skin cancer treatment options?
Treatments for skin cancer vary widely depending on the cells affected and the stage of the disease. Most basal cell or squamous cell carcinomas may be treated in an outpatient procedure by a dermatologist. The affected area may be removed with a local excision or by cryotherapy, which uses a very cold a substance such as liquid nitrogen to freeze and destroy the cancer cells. More advanced basal cell or squamous cell cancers may require more extensive surgeries and treatments. Surgery to treat melanoma and Merkel cell carcinomas may require a wide excision and the removal of lymph nodes. Chemotherapy, radiation, targeted therapy and immunotherapy are all treatment options for melanoma and Merkel cell carcinoma.
What side effects can I expect from my treatment?
What types of doctors will I see during my treatment for skin cancer or melanoma?
Depending on your type and stage of skin cancer, your care team may include a number of physicians, including one or all of the doctors below:
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Should I Get A Second Opinion
You should feel confident about your diagnosis many patients choose to get a second opinion before beginning any treatment plan. At Compass Oncology, our oncologists provide many second opinions for all types of cancer diagnoses and treatment plans. Most insurance companies will cover a second opinion assessment, but you should always check with your insurance provider to check your coverage before making an appointment.
To schedule a second opinion with one of our physicians, please choose a location that is convenient for you and call our office to make an appointment. Compass Oncology has offices located throughout the Portland-Vancouver area.
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.
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What Is The Outlook For People With Skin Cancer
Nearly all skin cancers can be cured if they are treated before they have a chance to spread. The earlier skin cancer is found and removed, the better your chance for a full recovery. Ninety percent of those with basal cell skin cancer are cured. It is important to continue following up with a dermatologist to make sure cancer does not return. If something seems wrong, call your doctor right away.
Most skin cancer deaths are from melanoma. If you are diagnosed with melanoma:
- The five-year survival rate if its detected before it spreads to the lymph nodes is 99%.
- The five-year survival rate if it has spread to nearby lymph nodes is 66%.
- The five-year survival rate if it has spread to distant lymph nodes and other organs is 27%.