Understanding The Types Of Skin Cancer And How They Affect You
If you spend a lot of time in the sun, you could be at risk of developing skin cancer, especially if you get a sunburn frequently. Skin cancer is fairly common, and fortunately, it is usually easy to treat if you detect and treat it early. Your treatment and prognosis depend on the type of skin cancer you develop. Here is a quick look at the most common types of skin cancer and how they differ.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer, and it is also the easiest to treat. It usually grows on the surface of the skin, so it is easy to remove by cutting away the tumor. However, it can also invade deeper tissues if you wait too long to seek treatment. Basal cell carcinoma is very slow growing. It may develop in later life from heavy tanning and burning you did as a youth. It usually begins as a small bump you may mistake for a mole or pimple, except it doesn't go away.
Regular skin examinations are important so you can familiarize yourself with all the moles and bumps on your skin. When you see a new growth, have it examined by your dermatologist or doctor. When it is caught early, basal cell carcinoma is curable. To treat it in the early stages, your doctor will surgically remove the growth from your skin, and that may be the only treatment you need. If the cancer has spread, your doctor may recommend other treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation treatments to kill stray cancer cells.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer. It is also a slow-growing type of cancer that is most often found on parts of your body that get a lot of sun exposure. It differs from basal cell carcinoma in that it spreads to deeper tissues more easily. In the early stages, it is easy to treat by cutting out the tumor or using topical chemotherapy creams. If the cancer spreads to your bones or lymph nodes, you may need to undergo radiation or chemotherapy treatments, and the cancer will be much more difficult to cure.
Squamous cell carcinoma may also appear as a new bump on your skin. It can also begin as a scaly patch. It may begin to grow on an old scar or mole. When you do your regular skin examinations, be sure to take note of any changes in the existing moles, scars, and sores you have. If the new growth looks suspicious, your doctor may perform a biopsy on it to look for cancer cells under a microscope. If they are found, you'll likely undergo surgery to remove the cancerous growth, and you may also have other tests to determine if the cancer has spread to your lymph nodes.
Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are also called non-melanoma skin cancers. Melanoma, which is a third type of skin cancer, is not as common, but it is more serious. It is a faster growing type of cancer that can be found anywhere on your body, even in areas not exposed to the sun. Melanoma is dangerous because it spreads easily to other parts of your body such as your lungs, bones, and brain.
Melanoma often appears like a new mole, however, when you look closely, it has different characteristics. It differs from a mole in that it has an irregular border, is asymmetrical, and it may have a variety of color shades. Melanoma is diagnosed after a biopsy. If melanoma is confirmed, further testing is done to determine the stage of cancer, which indicates how far it has spread. Your treatment depends on the stage of melanoma, and could include radiation, surgery, chemotherapy, or immunotherapy.
The most important aspect to keep in mind when it comes to treating skin cancer, no matter what type you have, is that early treatment is critical. Don't ignore new growths on your skin or changes to old growths. Also, be sure to get regular checkups by a dermatologist, like one at Vail Dermatology, so your entire body is examined for skin cancer growths.