Dr. Ajay KohliNov 22, 2022
One in every three cancers diagnosed globally is Skin Cancer. Exposure to sunlight is the primary cause of this disease. Skin Cancer/Skin Tumour comes in several forms; detecting them proactively will give you the highest chance of survival. Thus, it is critical to consult your doctor for an annual skin examination to keep this uninvited problem at bay. Read ahead to get an overview of this illness.
Skin Tumours are packs of tissues that develop when single or multiple components of the skin grow out of control. Most Skin Tumours are benign, causing only cosmetic problems. But aggressive Skin Tumours can lead to disfiguring and other serious health complications.
Skin Cancer can occur anywhere on the body but primarily affects areas frequently exposed to sunlight, such as the face, neck, hands, and arms. It can affect anyone, but people with light-coloured skin are more likely to develop it (since they tend to burn easily).
Skin Cancer can affect you, no matter your skin tone. So, any visible changes in the skin are typically considered a warning sign. You can ordinarily notice them more in the sun-exposed skin area, including the arms and hands, scalp, face, ears, lips, neck, chest, and on legs in women. Rarely, you may also see them on your palms, soles of your feet, under your fingernails or toenails, and in your genital area.
Be alert and consult with your doctor if you happen to see the following changes in your skin.
A sore that does not go away found on the chronically sun-exposed area
A mole that has changed in shape, size, and colour
Areas of the skin that may look like:
a smooth, shiny, and pearly bump.
a firm scar that may be white, yellow, or waxy.
pink or red nodule.
a rough, scaly, bleeding, or crusty sore.
Follow the simple ABCDE rules to watch for the warning signs of Skin Melanoma.
Asymmetry: irregular shape.
Border: irregular or poorly defined borders.
Colour: a mole that is dark brown or has multiple colours.
Diameter: the size of a mole or wound greater than 6 mm (larger than a pencil eraser)
Evolution: a recent change in the shape, colour, or size of a mole. (The most critical sign.)
Researchers are still determining the exact cause of different Skin Tumours. However, as with many cancers, Skin Cancer is believed to occur when the skin is exposed to harmful ultraviolet rays, which alter the skin cell's DNA, leading them to grow uncontrollably and forming a mass of tumour cells. A compromised immune system or a faulty mutation repair gene also triggers the malignant cells to form tumours. Of course, other factors too play a role in raising a person's chance of getting it.
Based on where the tumour begins, Skin Tumours are of three main types.
Basal Cell Carcinoma: In this type, the tumour starts in the basal cells at the skin's surface. People with fair skin who seldomly follow proper sun safety are more likely to develop this condition on the head, neck, and arms. It is a highly treatable cancer if found early.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Affects the cells on the outermost layer of the skin epidermis. When detected early, this tumour is treatable.
Melanoma: This is a rare and relatively more dangerous and aggressive cancer than others and usually develops in the melanocytes (the cells that give colour to your skin). Leaving it untreated can cause potentially life-threatening complications that are hard to treat.
Your diagnosis and general health usually determine your unique treatment plan. After carefully considering the findings in the preliminary test report(s), your doctor may advise one or more of the following tests.
Surgery through freezing: In this procedure, liquid nitrogen is sprayed on the early-stage small Skin Tumours to destroy them.
Excisional surgery: Involves cutting out the cancer growth.
Mohs surgery: Here, the growth is removed in layers, with each layer being examined under a microscope until no irregular cells are visible.
Curettage and electrodesiccation: Your doctor will scrape the growth from your skin using a long spoon-shaped blade while an electric needle burns the remaining cells. They are usually performed on the legs, arms, and trunk.
Chemotherapy: Drugs are taken either orally, topically, or intravenously (IV) to kill tumour cells.
Radiation: An energy beam is used to kill cancer cells and is given over several weeks.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT): This is a two-part procedure in which a light-sensitive solution is first applied to the cancerous skin area, and then the tumour cells are killed with blue or red laser light.
For advanced Skin Cancers, treatment involves combining surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Remember, early detection and treatment of Skin Cancer increases your chance of achieving a full recovery.
If you think you have a Skin Tumour, the first thing you should do is seek an appointment with your doctor. Then your doctor will examine your skin and will ask questions regarding your health, medication, and symptoms you had. Suppose your doctor finds a suspicious-looking skin area, you will be advised to have a skin biopsy, which is a safe and straightforward procedure for cancer diagnosis. Your skin sample will be taken and examined under the microscope to know whether you have any Skin Tumour that has turned into cancer and, if so, what type.
Additionally, an imaging test (CT scan, PET scan or ultrasound) may be performed to determine the extent (stage) of Skin Cancer. Knowing the cancer stage will help your doctor decide on an effective treatment plan.
Preventing Skin Tumours requires a comprehensive approach to protect yourself from exposure to harmful ultraviolet radiation. And to achieve this, experts recommend the following.
Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen that at least has SPF15 with both UV-A and UV-B filters.
Wear protective clothing, including a brimmed hat and UV-protected sunglasses, before you plan to have an extended outdoor activity.
Apply a lip balm with sunscreen.
Take shade or avoid going out when the sun is at its highest (11 AM to 4 PM).
Do a monthly self-examination of your whole body to look for unusual changes in mole patterns, freckles, or other marks on your skin.
Visit a dermatologist at least once a year for a professional skin check-up.
Anyone can get Skin Cancer. Nevertheless, a few specific factors play a significant role in determining an individual's risk. Some you can control, and others you cannot. These factors include the following.
Long unprotected exposure to ultraviolet rays
Lighter skin that may freckle or burn easily
Presence of atypical moles
Proclivity for sunburns
Personal or family history of Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the skin, Basal Cell Carcinoma, Familial Dysplastic Nevus Syndrome, Actinic Keratosis, or abnormal moles
Genetic predisposition for basal cell nevus syndrome (Gorlin syndrome) or xeroderma pigmentosum (XP)
Prior history of Skin Cancer
Scar from diseases and burns
Old age (above 50 years)
Weakened immunity due to organ transplant
Exposure to toxic chemicals like arsenic, coal products, industrial tar, paraffin, and certain types of oils
Viral infections such as HIV, Human papillomavirus
Yes, Skin Cancer has been rising steadily and rapidly over the years. And if a patient has Skin Cancer, the risk of developing more cancers also increases.
Often, the complications are related to cancer, or the surgery used to remove it. Usually, you may notice:
scarring of the skin at the site of treatment
hyper or hypopigmentation of the skin
change in the skin texture
wound infection and bleeding after surgery
swelling of the lymph nodes
local recurrence, where cancer cells affect surrounding areas
Untreated Skin Cancer can metastasize to muscles, nerves, and other body parts
For Melanoma, the five-year survival rate is between 30% and 99%, depending on the stage. Although, it is 93 % overall when cancer is detected early. Basal and Squamous Cell Carcinoma are generally treatable as they are limited to the skin surface.
Regular check-up is a proactive measure to find out if you have skin issues and treat them before they become problematic.
Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.
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