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Home / Health Insurance / Articles / Diseases / Understanding Skin Tumour: Types, symptoms, causes and treatment

Understanding Skin Tumour: Types, symptoms, causes and treatment

Dr. Ajay KohliMay 24, 2024

Skin cancer is a prevalent disease globally, with one in every three cancers diagnosed being skin cancer. Sunlight exposure is the primary cause. Skin cancer manifests in various forms, making proactive detection crucial for survival. 

Consulting a doctor for an annual skin examination is critical to early detection and prevention. Regular check-ups significantly reduce the risk of this disease, emphasising the importance of proactive healthcare measures in combating skin cancer's prevalence and ensuring better chances of survival.  Read ahead to get an overview of this illness.

Skin

 

Contents

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What are Skin Tumours?

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).

Signs and symptoms of Skin Tumour

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.

OR

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.)

Who is prone to Skin Cancer?

Caucasians, particularly those with fair features like blond or red hair, blue or green eyes, and easily freckled or burned skin, face higher risks of skin cancer. Age and prolonged sun exposure also increase susceptibility, with men being more prone to certain types like basal and squamous cell carcinomas. Protection through sunscreen, clothing, and avoiding excessive sun exposure is crucial, especially for those living in sunny regions or spending significant time outdoors.

What causes Skin Tumours?

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.

Types of Skin Tumours

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.

Stages of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer staging assesses the extent of the disease, crucial for determining treatment and prognosis. Nonmelanoma skin cancers, including basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, are categorised from stages 0 to 4. 

  • Stage 0 indicates cancer limited to the epidermis

  • Stages 1 and 2 involve progressive invasion into deeper skin layers, with stage 2 tumours exceeding 2 centimetres. 

  • Stage 3 signifies local spread to nearby tissues or bones.

  • Stage 4 indicates distant metastasis, often involving lymph nodes and other organs.

Melanoma Staging

Melanoma staging follows the TNM system, considering tumour thickness (T), lymph node involvement (N), and metastasis (M). Early stages range from 0 (noninvasive) to 2, where tumours remain localised but may exhibit concerning symptoms like bleeding or scaling. 

Stage 3 melanomas involve lymph nodes or nearby tissue spread, while stage 4 denotes distant metastasis, reflecting the most advanced disease.

Why Knowing About Staging Is Important?

Staging guides treatment decisions, with early stages often managed surgically, while advanced stages may require additional therapies like chemotherapy or immunotherapy. Regular follow-ups are essential to monitor progression and ensure timely intervention. Though experiences vary, staging provides a framework for personalised care, aiming to optimise outcomes and quality of life for individuals affected by skin cancer.

Treatment of Skin Tumour

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.

Life after Treatment of Skin Cancer 

Individuals who have had skin cancer face a heightened risk of recurrence, especially if immunosuppressed. Treatments like surgery or cryotherapy often leave scars, which may cause concerns about appearance. Strategies such as cosmetics, hairstyling, or clothing choices can help conceal scars. Open communication with healthcare providers is vital for exploring scar management options, including skincare regimens. 

The psychological impact of scarring shouldn't be underestimated, and seeking support from loved ones or mental health professionals is crucial. While scars may serve as reminders, they need not define one's sense of self. Embracing self-care practices and fostering a supportive network can empower individuals to navigate the complexities of skin cancer treatment and recovery.

Diagnosis of Skin Tumour

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.

How can I prevent Skin Tumours?

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.

When to Consult a Doctor?

It's essential to promptly consult a doctor if you notice any unusual spots or growths on your skin or detect changes in existing ones. Making an appointment with your doctor allows for a thorough examination of the concerning areas, leading to early detection and appropriate management. 

Assessing Diagnostic Tests Needed

During the evaluation, your doctor will assess various aspects such as the shape, size, colour, and texture of the suspicious area, as well as any accompanying symptoms like scaling, bleeding, or dry patches.

Biopsy

If there are indications suggestive of skin cancer, your doctor may recommend a biopsy to obtain a definitive diagnosis. This procedure involves the removal of a small sample of tissue from the suspicious area, which is then sent to a laboratory for analysis. Biopsies are typically safe and straightforward, providing valuable information to guide further management.

Additional tests

Following a skin cancer diagnosis, additional tests may be necessary to determine the extent or stage of the disease. These tests help in devising an appropriate treatment plan tailored to the specific type and stage of skin cancer, along with other pertinent factors such as overall health and individual preferences. Timely consultation with a healthcare professional is crucial for optimal outcomes in managing skin cancer. Early detection and intervention can significantly improve prognosis and may lead to less invasive treatment options. 

Which Doctors Treat Skin Cancer?

If diagnosed with skin cancer, your treatment team may comprise various specialists. A dermatologist specialising in skin diseases often leads the diagnosis and management. Medical oncologists administer targeted therapy, immunotherapy, or chemotherapy for systemic treatment. Surgical oncologists perform surgical interventions to remove cancerous tissue. 

Radiation oncologists utilise radiation therapy in cancer treatment. Additionally, support from healthcare professionals like nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, social workers, and nutrition specialists may be integral in providing comprehensive care and addressing physical, emotional, and practical needs throughout the treatment journey. Collaboration among these specialists ensures a multidisciplinary approach tailored to the individual's specific type and stage of skin cancer, optimising treatment outcomes and overall well-being.

Risk factors for Skin Tumours

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

  • Red hair

  • 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)

  • Male gender

  • 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

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here’s a list of common questions and answers related to Skin Tumour.

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Is Skin Tumour a common disease?

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.

What are the common complications of Skin Cancer?

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

What is the outlook for Skin Cancer?

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. 

What are the advantages of a skin check?

Regular check-up is a proactive measure to find out if you have skin issues and treat them before they become problematic.

References

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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