The Basics of Skin Cancer

There was once a time, when cancer was a disease that was considered rare and something that was almost unheard of, for most people. Today, the doctors encounter a growing number of people who are being affected by the same. What is alarming is that there are so many types of cancers these days and that many times detecting them becomes a tough task.

One of the most common types of cancer encountered these days is skin cancer, and in most cases, the reason behind the same is that people are not taking care of themselves and are not being sun safe. What is important to remember is that if the skin cancer is detected well in time, it can be treated and even cured.

What is skin cancer?

When there is an uncontrolled growth of skin cells that are not normal, it is known as skin cancer. This type of cancer occurs when DNA of skin cells get damaged and has not been repaired. This leads to mutation, genetic defects and could also lead to tumours and malignancy.

Why skin cancer needs to be treated immediately:

If the condition is detected in its initial stages, it is relatively easy to treat the cancer and to even eradicate it completely. In addition, early detection will also ensure that the condition does not spread to other parts of the body.

In order to receive early treatment, it is important that you learn how to examine your skin, which in turn will ensure that you are able to detect the condition, well in advance.

What are the types of cancers?

In order to treat skin cancer, figuring out the type of cancer is the most crucial step of all. There are actually three types of skin cancers:

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC): This is perhaps the most common type of skin cancer and is actually much more frequent, as compared to the other types of skin cancers. This type of cancer arises from the basal cells, which are actually present in the deepest layers of the epidermis. The initial presentation might be in the form of a bump or sore, that does not heal. It could also present in the form of a patch of skin, which is red and irritated. Most of the times, the areas of the skin that are constantly exposed to sunlight, such as face, ears and scalp are affected by basal cell carcinoma. If the condition is diagnosed well in time, treating and curing it, is possible.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC): Initiating in the squamous cells, this type of cancer too infests in the epidermis. The condition may present itself in the form of skin crusting or scaling. The area could become red and inflamed and there could be bumps, which do not heal. While the condition is seen most commonly in areas which are constantly exposed to sunlight, it could actually manifest itself in any part of the body. With early treatment, the condition can be stopped from spreading.

Melanoma: This is the most dangerous type of skin cancer arising from the pigmented skin cells. If the condition is not diagnosed well within time, it could lead to death; however, this type of cancer can be treated and cured with minor surgeries. But if the melanoma starts to spread within the body, then curing it can be quite the tough task.

What are the main treatments for skin cancer:

If the condition has been detected well within time, there are certain procedures and treatments, which can cure the cancer. Some of the most commonly used procedures include:

Wide local excision – The tumour is removed using surgery, and a small portion of the tissues, surrounding the tumour is also removed.

Mohs surgery – The skin cancer is removed in a very precise manner

Cryosurgery – The tumour is destroyed using cold treatment

Laser surgery – The cancer cells are vaporized using laser

Curettage and Desiccation – The skin cancer is removed via methods such as scraping and cauterization

Topical chemotherapy – Prescribed medications, in the form of lotion or creams, will have to be applied on the skin, where the cancer has manifested itself

Laser treatments for pre-cancerous growths – A laser is used to remove the skin conditions that could eventually develop into skin cancer

Photodynamic therapy for pre-cancerous growths – Special medications, known as photosensitizing agents, are combined with light therapy and these are utilised for the eradication the defective cells.

What are the main dos and don’ts?

Here are the things that you should do:

· Try to minimise the time you spend in the sun, especially between 10 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon, which is when the rays of the sun are the strongest.

· Wear clothing that will offer protection against the sun, including sunglasses and hats with wide brims

· Make sure that you use sunscreen on a regular basis, and pick one that will offer you protection against UVA as well as UVB.

· Avoid artificial tans, tanning beds and tanning devices as much as possible.

· Learn how to recognised the ABCDEs of skin cancer lesions:

A: Asymmetry

B: Border irregularity

C: Colour variability

D: Diameter increase

E: Evolving nature

· If you notice any skin lesions or moles, then it would be best that you visit a dermatologist immediately.

Here are the things you should avoid doing:

· If you notice any signs of skin cancer, do not ignore them, and make sure that you have them screened by a doctor.

· Rather than going to a general practitioner, it would make sense to meet a dermatologist, because they would be able to offer better advice.

· If the condition is diagnosed as skin cancer, do not shy away from asking questions and further treatment.