Symptoms of Skin Cancer
Skin cancer cases continue to increase everywhere. Statistics from cancer.gov estimates more than a million new cases but less than 1,000 deaths from skin (nonmelanoma) cancer in the United States in 2009:
These statistics don’t mean much unless you you know are one of the million new cases or one of the thousand deaths from this disease.
There aren’t many types of skin cancer and some are not as bad as others. Most of the non-lethal types are slow growing and how it makes the skin look is usually the first concern. We’re all interested in how we look, even us old guys. Some topical treatments (ointments) such as effudex and fluoroplex are useful in removing skin cells that may become cancerous.
The first type of cancer is known as basal cell carcinoma. The typical signs of basal skin cancer are waxy or pearly looking bumps that can occur anywhere on the body. Basil cells are more common on areas that are frequently exposed to the sun, like the face, arms and legs. It might also show up on your back or chest as a scar-like spot that can be flesh-colored or brown and can look like liver spots. This is the most common type of skin cancer. It doesn’t usually spread very fast and is usually easy to treat.
The second type is known as squamous cell carcinoma. It is more dangerous than a basil cell and is characterized by symptoms like a red nodules or a scaly lesion that won’t heal. This type of skin cancer can show up on anywhere on the body but the face, arms and legs are where these usually occur. This type does not spread very fast, but the frequency of spreading is slightly higher than that of basal cell carcinoma. It also can easily be treated effectively if it is detected early. Left untreated, this type of skin cancer can go to other parts of the body, making treatments much more difficult.
The third type is known as a melanoma, and is considered to be the rarest and most serious type of skin cancer. Melanomas cause the majority of skin cancer related deaths. The most effective treatment for a melanoma is surgical removal. A melanoma can look like an asymmetrical skin lesion and can have an irregular border. Sometimes the lesion will have multiple colors and can be raised above the skin like a mole.
Symptoms of a melanoma include a mole that can be located anywhere on your body. Check your skin for new moles. Check existing moles for any noticeable changes like an increase in size or a change in color. For instance, a melanoma can look like a large brown spot with darker speckles inside it. Lesions with irregular borders or more than one color may also be signs of a melanoma.
If you notice any unusual spots or moles anywhere on your body, or if a mole changes at all, it is important to see your doctor for a professional examination. While melanoma can be more serious, it is still 99% treatable when caught in the early stages. Melanoma is more dangerous but less common. If untreated it can spread to other tissues and organs.
There are many treatment options available for the different types of skin cancer. Surgery is the most common. If surgery doesn’t work or is not an option, radiation and chemotherapy may work on some cancers. There may even be some alternative skin cancer treatments available. Everyone who has had skin cancer would like to find ways to prevent the disease.
The important thing is to see a doctor if you have any changes in your skin that cause concern. Changes in the skin have to be evaluated to determine if cancer is present and what treatment is necessary and appropriate. There are advantages and disadvantages to every treatment. It’s up to you and your doctor to determine which one is best.