With over half a million cases diagnosed each year, skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer impacting individuals across the United States. The number of incidences continues to rise faster than any type of cancer.
Where Does Skin Cancer Occur?
While some areas of the body are more prone to skin cancer, this disease can be found in any area of the body. Nearly 80-percent of patients diagnosed are found to have skin cancer on the neck, head, or face. Skin cancer can cause disfiguration and be extremely dangerous in some cases.
Who Has a Higher Risk of Getting Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer can affect anybody; however, certain individuals are more likely to be impacted by this disease. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun is the primary cause of skin cancer in patients. Individuals who use tanning booths and sunlamps also have an increased risk. Researchers have found that the increase in people participating in outdoor events, seeking the perfect tan, and the thinning of the ozone layer are some of the leading causes of the increase in diagnoses each year.
Individuals’ physical characteristics can also lead to an increased risk of developing skin cancer. Light-colored hair and eyes as well as individuals with fair skin that freckles easily are more susceptible to UV rays. A large number of skin moles or unusually shaped marks on the skin are more likely to develop into skin cancer than individuals who do not have a lot of moles. A family history of skin cancer can also have a large impact on a person being affected by skin cancer.
Additionally, living close to the equator, working or spending a lot of time outdoors, and receiving therapeutic radiation for acne are also big contributors to skin cancer development.
Different Types of Skin Cancer
Basal cell carcinoma is one of the most common types of skin cancer. Thankfully, this type of cancer is also the least danger and tends to grow slower than other types. Additionally, this type of cancer does not typically spread to areas other than where it is originally discovered. Although this type of cancer is not typically life threatening, it can grow deep beneath the skin if left untreated. This can cause damage to tissues and bones underneath, especially if the cancer is located around the eyes.
The second most common type of skin cancer is squamous cell carcinoma. This type of cancer most commonly appears on the ears, face, and lips of individuals. Unlike basal cell carcinoma, this type of cancer can spread to internal organs and lymph nodes and become life-threatening if it is not treated.
Malignant melanoma is the least common form of skin cancer, but it is one of the most dangerous types a person can be diagnosed with. This form of cancer can be completely cured if discovered early. If this cancer goes without early intervention, it can spread rapidly throughout the body and become extremely life-threatening. Unfortunately, this form of skin cancer is on the rise, especially in areas considered Sunbelt states.
Other Skin Growths You Should Be Familiar With
There are common skin growths that individuals can experience. These growths are called keratoses or moles. Moles appear to be clusters of skin cells that are heavily pigmented. Some moles can be raised above the skin while others may be flat. Most moles are completely harmless; however, if they appear to change in shape, color, or size it is important to have the area checked out to make sure it does not turn into cancer.
Keratoses on the skin are referred to as either solar or actinic. These are scaly patches on the skin that are often rough to the touch and brown or red in color. Keratoses are typically found in areas of the body that are exposed to the sun. Although rare, keratoses can develop into squamous cell cancer.
How to Recognize Skin Cancer
It is extremely important for you to be familiar with your skin and how it appears and changes from day to day. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinomas are forms of cancer that can vary greatly in their appearance. Each of these cancers can begin as a small bump or nodule on the skin that is pink or white in color. These marks can be pitted on the surface, or they can be waxy, smooth, and shiny. Other growths may appear as dry or scaly red spots on the skin. Additionally, they can appear as firm red lumps on the skin that may develop a layer of crust on the surface. If you see any of these markings develop on your skin, or notice that you have a score that does not heal properly within two to four weeks or scarred white tissue, you may want to seek a professional exam.
Having moles change in size, color, or shape may signify the development of malignant melanoma. It is recommended to look for the “ABCD” warning signs that demonstrate this disease is developing. These signs include:
Asymmetry:Border Irregularity:Color:Diameter:How to Choose a Doctor
Asymmetry: an unusual growth pattern that has asymmetric growth.
Border Irregularity: misshaped edges that are ragged or blurred.
Color: an unusual blend of colors that present a “mottled” appearance. This is a combination of black, grown, and tan mixtures. Sometimes white, blue, or red colors may appear within a mole as well.
Diameter: a sudden growth in the size of an existing mole. If the growth is more than 6-millimeters across, it may mean there is an underlying cause for concern.
Obtaining an examine from your family physician is a great place to start if you have any concerns about skin cancer. He or she can recommend a specialist for you to help address your specific concern. If you prefer to go straight to a specialist yourself, a dermatologist or plastic surgeon is your best bet for diagnosing and treating any unusual growth or types of skin cancer.
Plastic surgeons can be a crucial part of your treatment plan when it comes to dealing with growths or skin cancer. These individuals are best suited for removing growths while ensuring you are still able to use the area of the body. These individuals are also most likely to provide a finished appearance that you are pleased with. This is especially true if the cancer or growth is on your face or areas of the body that is readily noticeable. If another form of treatment is needed for the skin cancer or growth, a plastic surgeon is best suited to refer you to a specialist to best treat your condition.
How is Skin Cancer Diagnosed and Treated
In order to diagnose skin cancer, a biopsy of the suspicious growth is examined under a microscope. Once the type of cancer is determined, the treatment method is selected based on the stage of growth and the location on the body.
The majority of skin cancers are removed via surgery. A plastic surgeon or dermatologist removes
the growth and provides a reconstructive surgery to make the area appear as close to normal as possible. This is a rather simple process that is typically performed in an outpatient facility under local anesthesia. A simple excision, curettage, or desiccation are the most common surgical procedures performed on small cancer growths.
Major surgery is often used for larger skin cancers or types that have spread to lymph glands orother organs. Some of these options include:
Cryosurgery:Radiation Therapy:Topical chemotherapy:MOHS Surgery:Discussion Concerns and Different Options
Cryosurgery: The freezing of the cancer cells.
Radiation Therapy: The use of x-rays to dissolve cancer cells.
Topical chemotherapy: the application of anti-cancer drugs on the affected skin.
MOHS Surgery: The shave off and removal of cancer cells. This surgery removes cancer layer-by- layer and often requires reconstructive surgery afterward.
Each form of treatment shows promising results for basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas. These options also have a good cure rate for malignant melanoma if it is caught early on.
Discuss all of these choices thoroughly with your doctor before you select and begin any treatment. It is important that you know which types of treatments are available for you and which seem to be the most effective for your specific condition. A second opinion from a plastic surgeon is a way to reassure your treatment plan if you are unsure about the possible outcome.
About Reconstruction Surgery
Although skin cancer treatments can have promising results, they often leave patients with functional or cosmetic imperfections. Consequently, patients may choose reconstructive surgery to remedy an unpleasant skin or scarring. Plastic surgeons can be an important part of a treatment team no matter who performs your specific treatment plan. There are numerous reconstructive processes, like scar revisions or tissue flap transfers, which can repair damaged tissues and restore confidence in patients.
Prevent Skin Cancer Recurrences
After you have experienced skin cancer, you are more likely to develop a recurrence of the same type. There are several things you can do to reduce your chances of a recurrence. Some things you can do are:
Wear protective clothing, such as long sleeves or wide-brimmed hats, when you are planning to be outdoors.
Avoid sun exposure between 10:00 A.M. and 2:00 P.M. during the summer months.
Wear a minimum SPF 15 when you are going to be outdoors.
Examine your skin regularly for changes.