Skin cancer is a condition in which abnormal cells grow in the tissues under the skin. Skin cancer symptoms include discoloration of the skin, any unusual or new growth in the skin and noticeable changes in existing moles. The types of treatments for skin cancer are surgery, targeted therapy, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, local hyperthermia, immunotherapy, etc. The major skin cancer risk factors are tanning beds and over exposure to the UV rays.
Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of cells in the skin tissues. The major cause of skin cancer is over exposure of your skin to the sun. Not necessarily, the disease develops only on the exposed areas of your skin, since it can occur in other unexposed areas as well.
Medical professionals who diagnose and treat skin cancer include dermatologists, skin care surgeons, radiation oncologists, etc. There are typically three types of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma and melanoma. The first two types of diseases are non-melanoma skin cancer that affects specific areas of your skin and rarely spread to other body parts. On the other hand, melanoma skin cancer is rare that is likely to spread to tissues in other body parts.
When the DNA of skin cells suddenly starts to mutate for unknown reasons, causing normal cells to grow out of control, it results into skin cancer. At first, skin cancer attacks the uppermost crust of the skin, called the epidermis that gradually invades the lower layers of the skin. The presence of ultraviolet rays in the sun is another potential cause of skin cancer. Over exposure to toxic substances and having a weaker immune system are other reasons that should be taken into consideration.
Look out for the signs and symptoms of skin cancer that generally includes:
Adopting significant preventive measures for skin cancer can help keep the disease at bay. For instance, avoid the sun especially during the noon when the intensity of sun rays is very high. Wear sunscreen every time you step into the sun and do not forget to wear it even at home. When going out into the sun, try to wear protective clothing as much as possible.
Be aware of the various sun-sensitizing medications and avoid tanning beds too. Check your skin at repeated intervals and if you notice any changes, report it to the doctor right away.
In case your doctor notices anything suspicious on your skin, he will carry out a thorough skin examination. A preliminary test is done to assess the condition of your skin and whether there are any skin changes that are likely to turn cancerous. Further examinations are required if the doctor needs to investigate more. A sample of your suspicious skin is sent for a lab biopsy.
If skin cancer is diagnosed, your doctor may conduct further tests to evaluate the type and stage of the cancer. This is because basal cell carcinoma rarely spreads to other parts of the skin, while melanoma or squamous cell carcinoma tends to invade other body areas. In that case, additional tests are required for examining samples of your lymph nodes for signs of cancer.
The treatment options for skin cancer vary depending upon the type and stage of the cancer. Non-melanoma skin cancer treatment includes surgeries, radiation therapy, electrosurgery, cryosurgery, etc. On the other hand, treatment options for melanoma include chemotherapy, surgery, immunotherapy, targeted therapy with inhibitors, etc.
Once the doctor decides your treatment option, you should take care of a few things to get ready for skin cancer treatment as specified by your doctor.
Whether you have a surgery or chemotherapy, radio therapy, targeted treatment or any other type of treatments, this is how you prepare:
The treatment options are classified as follows, which also explain how the skin cancer treatments are performed:
You are usually discharged on the day after the surgery during which your doctor removes the bandage and evaluates the site. You are advised to clean the site with hydrogen peroxide and then apply antibiotics before doing the bandage. The stitches are removed mostly after a week’s time posts any skin cancer surgery.
The recovery of skin cancer treatment varies. Some patients are required to wear bandages for 7 days after the surgery, while for others it may take 2-3 weeks to recover. Follow-up appointments with the doctor are essential to evaluate your skin condition for months and years after the surgery. Sometimes, your doctor may suggest a reconstruction procedure immediately after your surgery to help restore your skin’s appearance.