Skin cancer is referred to as the abnormal growth of skin cells which normally develops on skin excessively exposed to sunlight. Sunlight contains ultraviolet (UV) rays that can change the DNA of skin cells. Sunlamps, tanning booths, and X-rays all generate UV rays that can damage skin and cause abnormal cell division. Basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma are three major types of skin cancer. Other forms of skin cancer include Kaposi's sarcoma, Merkel cell carcinoma and sebaceous gland carcinoma.
You can minimize your risk of skin cancer by avoiding exposure to ultraviolet rays. Early identification of skin cancer presents an opportunity for successful skin cancer treatment.
Symptoms related to skin cancer
Skin cancer grows on areas of sun-exposed skin such as chest, arms, neck, face, lips etc. But it can also occur on your palms, beneath fingernails or your genital area. Skin cancer is not limited to any skin tone. People with all kinds of complexions can suffer from skin cancer.
Symptoms of Basal cell carcinoma
Symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma
- A pearly or waxy bump
- A flat, flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesion
Symptoms of Melanoma
- A firm, red nodule
- A flat lesion with a scaly, crusted surface
Tests and diagnosis for skin cancer
- A large brownish spot with darker speckles
- A mole that changes in color, size or feel or that bleeds
- A small lesion with an irregular border and portions that appear red, white, blue or blue-black
- Dark lesions on your palms, soles, fingertips or toes, or on mucous membranes lining your mouth, nose, vagina or anus
In order to detect the presence of skin cancer, your doctor may:
Skin cancer treatment options
- Inspect your skin: Your doctor may examine your skin to determine whether your skin changes are likely to be skin cancer. He may suggest doing further tests needed to confirm that diagnosis.
- Skin biopsy: Your skin specialist may remove a small sample of suspected area of skin for laboratory testing. A biopsy is the perfect way of determining the type and extent of skin cancer.
Your treatment for skin cancer and actinic keratoses (precancerous skin lesions
) depends on the size, type, depth and location of the lesions. Small skin cancers may not require treatment beyond an initial skin biopsy. Additional options may include:
- Freezing: Your skin doctor may demolish actinic keratoses and some small, early skin cancers by freezing them with the help of liquid nitrogen.
- Excision surgery: This treatment is appropriate for all kinds of skin cancer. Your doctor surgically removes the cancerous tissue and a surrounding margin of healthy skin. In certain cases, removing extra normal skin around the tumor may be required.
- Mohs surgery: This surgery is performed to treat larger, recurring or difficult-to-treat skin cancers. This procedure is used where skin conservation is necessary, like on the nose.
- Cryotherapy: After removing most of the tumor, your skin specialist removes remaining cancer cells using a device with a circular blade and an electric needle.
- Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy is an option when cancer can't be completely removed during surgery. It involves high-powered energy beams, such as X-rays, to exterminate cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy: It is a drug based treatment to kill cancer cells. In chemotherapy, anti-cancer agents may be applied directly to the skin for cancers that are limited to the top layer of skin.
- Photodynamic therapy: Photodynamic therapy kills skin cancer cells with a combination of laser light and drugs that makes cancer cells sensitive to light.
- Biological therapy: This kind of therapy strengthens your immune system to fight cancer cells.
Skin cancer is preventable if you check your skin regularly and report changes to your doctor.