There are three common types of skin cancer: squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma and melanoma. Squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas are considered non-melanoma cancers and usually do not spread to other parts of your body. Melanoma is the most dangerous types of skin cancer and, without treatment, can spread to your lymph nodes and other organs.
The earlier skin cancer is identified and treated, the better chance your chance of complete recovery. Some of the signs of skin cancer include:
- A sore that doesn’t heal
- Raised, smooth, shiny or “pearly” looking areas of the skin
- Areas of the skin that look like a scar
- Raised areas that are red or reddish-brown
- Areas that are scaly, bleeding or crusty
- Moles that have changed in size, shape or color
- Moles with irregular borders or are asymmetrical
- Moles that are different colors (within one mole)
- New moles that grow near existing moles
If you see any of these signs, you should contact your doctor. Most dermatologists recommend annual skin examinations to make sure skin cancer is detected and treated early.
Skin Cancer Treatment
Treatment for skin cancer is dependent on the type of cancer you have and whether or not it has spread to other areas of your body. If you do have skin cancer, your doctor will discuss the possible treatments and work with you to determine what is best for you. Some of the treatments include:
Excisional Surgery – Your doctor cuts out the area of cancer and then tests nearby areas to make sure they are clear of any signs of cancer.
Skin Grafts – If the area your doctor needs to remove is large, he may suggest a skin graft. In this procedure your doctor takes some skin from a different area of your body, such as the thigh, to “fill in” the excision site.
Checking Lymph Nodes – When melanoma spreads, it often spreads to the lymph nodes, beginning with the lymph nodes closest to the cancer site. Your doctor will check the lymph nodes to determine if your cancer has spread out from the original site.
Lymph Node Dissection - If your doctor determines that your skin cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, a lymph node dissection is done, removing some or all of the lymph nodes closest to the cancer to help reduce the chance of the cancer spreading further.
Topcial Chemotherapy – Some types of skin cancers, especially non-melanoma cancers, can be treated with a topical cream to help kill the cancer cells. These are applied at home. You can experience side effects and the treatment needs to be closely monitored by your doctor.
Chemotherapy – For cancers that have spread to your lymph nodes and beyond, chemotherapy may be recommended. This is done in the hospital or outpatient clinic and involves taking large doses of a medication or combination of medications. There are side effects to chemotherapy.
If you have skin cancer, it is important to understand your treatment options. It is often helpful to bring someone with you to your appointment so you don’t miss any important information as this can be a confusing and scary time. Be sure to ask any questions you may have and read about any suggested treatments so you know what to expect.
Published On: November 12, 2013