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Skin Cancer

The skin on our body has a layer known as epidermis that protects it from outside factors. This sheds regularly and produces new skin cells. When the skin is overexposed to sunlight or when it is exposed to some toxic substances, it can develop skin cancer. It is very common in fair-skinned people and the chances of getting this disease increases when you have a family history of skin cancer. However, it can be easily treated when it is detected in early stages. In advanced stages, it can also be fatal and proper care is needed to reduce the symptoms.

Types of Skin Cancer

-  Basal Cell Carcinoma : This occurs in the facial region and the neck region. It appears like a waxy bump or like a lesion depending on various factors.

-  Squamous Cell Carcinoma : This condition usually occurs on body parts that are more exposed to Sun and you will notice them on face, hands and ears. When it comes to darker skinned people, the chances of getting this condition is more in areas that are not too exposed to Sun.

-  Melanoma : This condition can develop in any part of the body and it affects people of every skin tone. It usually begins like a single spot with dark areas on the border. In other cases, it can also be seen as a mole which changes its appearance over a period of time.

-  Kaposi Sarcoma : This affects the blood vessels of the skin and causes red patches on the skin surface. It is more likely to affect people with the weak immune system and the disease is not very common.

-  Merkel Cell Carcinoma : This type of cancer usually affects the head region along with the neck and trunk region. It occurs in the hair follicles below the skin and it is clearly visible even with the naked eye.

-  Sebaceous Gland Carcinoma : This type of cancer occurs in the oil glands of the skin and it is not very common. You can notice them usually in the eyelids even though they can appear anywhere on the skin.

Symptoms of Skin Cancer

- It is interesting to note that basal cell carcinomas will display only a few symptoms whereas squamous cell carcinomas are known for painful symptoms.

- What begins as a small bump begins to grow and it will even bleed and form a crust. They do not heal easily unlike the normal wounds and this should indicate some danger about the symptoms of cancer.

- As soon as you notice pink or red coloured bumps in the body, you should watch their growth carefully and notice when they heal. In most cases, they should be gone within a few weeks. Anything more than that should be a cause of worry as this can be symptoms of cancer.

- They are normally covered with a raised border and have a crust in the middle of the wound. Similarly, they can also have a white or yellow coloured bump that looks like a scar.

- Some open sores may not heal for many weeks and this should indicate something is wrong with the wound. Along with that, when you notice a wound similar to a wart, you should immediately get in touch with your doctor and get yourself examined for skin cancer.

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Causes of Skin Cancer

The major cause of skin cancer is the DNA mutation that happens in the body due to excessive exposure to sunlight. In normal cases, our body is able to control the damage. But when the skin cells become malignant, they can become dangerous and they can even spread to other regions. In the same manner, exposure to harmful chemicals such as arsenic or exposure to radiation can also cause this disease. People having a family history of cancer are more likely to get affected with this condition. Apart from that, even age plays an important role and elderly people are more prone to getting cancer. This may happen due to decreased immunity in the body and also due to overexposure to UV rays. If you are using a tanning booth too often, remember that you are under risk of getting this disease.

Diagnosis of Skin Cancer

-  Physical Examination : The first step in diagnosis begins with the physical examination of the skin surface. Your doctor will carefully check the moles or other lesions that appear to be symptoms of cancer and analyze them using various tools. These professionals are called the dermatologist and they specialize in such treatments. They will use dermatoscope to observe the affected area and also scan the area using Malafind which allows them to get computerized images of the affected area. In this way, they can determine the presence of cancer in the affected area. When something suspicious is noticed or when it is confirmed that the person is affected with cancer, further tests are done through biopsy to verify the results.

-  Biopsy : This process removes a part of the affected area to be examined in the laboratory. In some cases, even some part of the adjacent area may be removed to notice the difference between the affected area and the normal skin surface. The dermatologist will be able to get a clear idea about the overall situation with the results of the biopsy and further treatment process can be started after this step.

-  Blood Test : In many cases, blood tests are done after the results of the biopsy turned out to be positive. This will give them a fair idea about the intensity of the disease and they can make out if the cancerous cells have spread to other regions of the body. If the results of the blood test turn out to be positive, the patient may be suggested to undergo few imaging tests for further diagnosis.

-  Imaging tests : finally, several imaging tests like x-ray, CT scan and other tests may be done to determine the other regions which are affected by this cancer. In this way, the entire diagnosis will be done according to the results of individual tests. In some cases, tests may be done within a gap of a few weeks to know about the rate at which cancer is spreading in the body.

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Prevention of Skin Cancer

- The best way to prevent skin cancer is to reduce your exposure to the sun on a daily basis. When you want to go outside, avoid the peak intensity hours as per your regional climate and stay protected from skin cancer.

- It is always a good idea to use sunscreen regularly that can protect your skin from UV damage. If you want to go out for tanning, you should strictly avoid the artificial tanning beds as they can damage your skin in the long run.

- Wear full-length clothing as far as possible so that you will not get direct exposure to sun and this will minimize the damage to your skin. Also eating healthy food that provides good nutrition for your skin will help you to prevent various diseases in the future.

- You should also make it a point to examine yourself once in a while for any abnormal growth of moles or patches on your skin. Watch them carefully and see how they grow or reduce on the skin surface. If you notice that they are not going on their own and have been growing for a few weeks, you should get in touch with your doctor for further examination. This can help you to detect skin cancer in the early stages and you will be able to get good treatment at the right time.

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Skin Cancer Treatment

-  Surgery : This is the only option in most cases and you should go for surgery to get the affected area removed. This can be successfully done in the case of Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Basal Cell Carcinoma. In this procedure, the lesion is removed with the help of surgery and this can provide long-term relief.

- However, when it comes to malignant melanoma, removing the tumour is not enough as the disease would have spread to other regions of the body. For this reason, it is essential to treat the condition with radiation, chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

-  Radiation Therapy : This is used when the size of a tumour is big and it can successfully kill the cancer cells in the body. However, it may also burn the area around a tumour and cause some amount of discomfort and pain. This is not a huge problem as the body will recover from this treatment on its own after a few months. This therapy comes with few side effects and used when surgery is not a viable option to treat cancer.

-  Immune Therapy :  In some cases, several vaccines and drugs are used to treat the condition. This is usually used in advanced cases where the melanoma has spread to various organs. The medicine travels throughout the body and kills the cancerous cells and also boosts the immunity of the body. It can cause many side effects and this method can be used along with surgery and radiation therapy.

-  Chemotherapy: special drugs that can kill cancer cells are injected into the body and they can reduce the growth of cancerous cells by a huge margin. This therapy is used alongside other methods to provide relief and it is done in stages so that the body can tolerate the heavy dosage of drugs to treat cancer.

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Complications of Skin Cancer

- In a few cases, there is a chance that cancer might come back after a few months or years. This can lead to various complications and the patient has to undergo all the treatment from scratch to get rid of cancer.

- If the affected area is still having any cancerous cells, it can spread to nearby tissues and continue to stay in the body. It happens when the surgery is not able to completely remove the cancer cells. In other cases, there is a chance that cancer can spread to healthy tissues and make them malignant in the future.

- In extreme conditions, it results in metastasis where the effect of cancer will be severe and it easily spreads to different organs of the body including the nerves and muscles. In this way, it becomes very difficult to target the treatment in any particular region and the survival rate drastically reduces with such type of cancer condition.

Myths about Skin Cancer

Myth # 1: Tanning beds are safe :

Many people assume that tanning beds are safe as they are openly advertised on the market. However, it increases your chances of getting skin cancer in the long run. You should avoid it and instead go for a natural tan.

Myth # 2: Dark skinned people are safe :

it is true that skin cancer affects more white people. However, even dark-skinned people also get affected and this can happen even when they are not overexposed to the sun. The chances increase when they have a family history of skin cancer.

Myth # 3:  Sunscreen not needed every day :

many people assume that sunscreen is not needed when it is cloudy outside. This is wrong as the UV rays can even harm you in such weather conditions.

Myth # 4: Skin cancer only affects elderly people :

It is true that the chances of getting skin cancer increase with age. However, there is no guarantee that it does not affect youngsters. Melanoma can even affect youngsters in many cases.

Myth # 5:  Skin cancer is not fatal :

Melanoma can be fatal as cancer spreads to different organs in this case. When timely treatment is not provided, it can lead to death due to improper functioning of the affected organs.

Conclusion

When you are diagnosed with skin cancer, you need not worry too much if it is still in the early stages. Advanced treatment has made it possible for cancer survivors to lead a comfortable life after surgery. However, you should always go for a regular checkup once a year to be on the safe side as some cancer can return after a few years. The best thing you can do to prevent skin cancer is to reduce your outdoor activities during daytime. This ensures that your skin does not get damaged due to UV rays and you will be able to prevent many types of cancer in this manner.

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Last updated on : 26-10-2018

Disclaimer : Docprime doesn’t endorse or take any guarantee of the accuracy or completeness of information provided under this article and these are the views strictly of the writer. Docprime shall not be held responsible for any aspect of healthcare services administered with the information provided on this article.

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