Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. It is caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or other sources, such as tanning beds. There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are more common, but they are also less dangerous than melanoma.
Skin Cancer Treatment in Tucson, AZ
What is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. It can develop on any part of the skin, including the lips, scalp, and nails. Skin cancer begins when skin cells mutate or change and grow out of control. These abnormal cells often form a tumor, which can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Benign tumors do not spread to other parts of the body, but malignant tumors can spread to nearby tissues and organs, causing serious health problems.
Skin cancer is generally caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds. UV radiation damages the DNA in skin cells, causing mutations that can lead to cancer. People with fair skin are at greater risk for skin cancer, but anyone can develop the disease. There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the most common types of skin cancer, and they are usually treatable if detected early.
Types of Skin Cancer
Melanoma, the most common kind of cancer, is typically called “cancer of the skin.” If you have skin cancer, it’s critical to know what type you have because it will influence your treatment choices and prognosis (outlook). Ask your doctor if you’re unsure which form of skin cancer you have.
- Basal and Squamous Cell Skin Cancer – Basal cell cancer is the most common type of skin cancer, accounting for about 80% of all cases. While it is not usually fatal, it can cause disfigurement if it is not treated promptly.
- Melanoma Skin Cancer – Melanoma is a more aggressive form of skin cancer. While it may not be as common as other types, it is still important to be aware of the risk factors, symptoms, and treatment options.
- Merkel Cell Skin Cancer – Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare variant of skin cancer. If it spreads beyond the skin, MCC usually grows quickly and is difficult to cure.
- Lymphoma of the Skin – Lymphoma is a cancer that forms in parts of the body’s immune system. Skin lymphomas (or cutaneous lymphomas) are an uncommon sort of lymphoma that begins in the skin.
- Kaposi Sarcoma – Symptoms of Kaposi sarcoma include the development of blotches or tumors on the skin, which are usually purple, red, or brown in color.
What are the symptoms of Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer develops primarily on areas of sun-exposed skin, including the scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, chest, arms, and hands, and on the legs in women. But it can also form on areas that rarely see the light of day — your palms, beneath your fingernails or toenails, and your genital area.
Skin cancer affects people of all skin tones, including those with darker complexions. When melanoma occurs in people with dark skin tones, it’s more likely to occur in areas not normally exposed to the sun, such as the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
Basal cell carcinoma signs and symptoms.
Basal cell carcinoma is most commonly found in areas of your body that are exposed to the sun, such as your neck or face. Basal cell carcinomas may appear as:
- A pearly or waxy bump
- A flat, skin-colored or brown scar-like lesion
- A bleeding or scabbing wound that heals and recurs
Squamous cell carcinoma signs and symptoms.
People with fairer skin develop squamous cell carcinoma more often in sun-exposed areas, such as the face, ears, and hands. However, those with darker skin are just as likely to get it in places that don’t see much sunlight. Squamous cell carcinoma usually appears as:
- A firm, red lump
- A scaly, crusted surface is typical of a flat lesion.
Melanoma signs and symptoms
Melanoma is a type of cancer that can develop in any part of the body, including on normal skin or an existing mole. In men, it most often appears on the face or trunk. For women, this type of cancer typically develops on the lower legs. Even people who haven’t been exposed to sunlight can get melanoma.
Skin tone does not matter when it comes to developing melanoma—it can affect anyone regardless of their complexion. However, for those with darker skin tones, this cancer is more likely to occur on the palms or soles, under fingernails or toenails, and in other places not commonly associated with exposure to UV light.
There are several signs associated with melanoma:
- A dark brown blotch with darker specks.
- A mole that changes color, size, or texture or that bleeds
- A small lesion with an uneven border and regions that are red, pink, white, blue, or blue-black in color.
- A lesion that is painful and itchy or causes a burning sensation.
- If you have dark lesions on your palms, soles of your feet, or around your nails, or if you notice them in mucous membranes lining.
Signs and symptoms of less common skin cancers
Some other types of skin cancer include:
- Kaposi sarcoma. This rare form of skin cancer develops in the vessels that carry blood to the skin, causing red or purple patches on the skin or lining of organs.
- Merkel cell carcinoma. Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare, aggressive form of skin cancer that develops in hair follicles. It appears as firm, glossy nodules on or just beneath the skin and in hair follicles. Merkel cell carcinomas are most prevalent on the head, neck, and trunk.
- Sebaceous gland carcinoma. Sebaceous gland carcinomas are an uncommon yet aggressive form of cancer that begins in the oil glands found in human skin. These cancerous growths often manifest as hard, painless nodules and can appear anywhere on the body. However, they’re most likely to show up on the eyelid, where they’re often mistaken for other benign conditions.
How is Skin cancer diagnosed?
Your doctor may conduct a variety of tests to identify skin cancer.
- Your doctor may examine your skin to determine whether changes are likely to be cancerous. Further testing may be needed for confirmation.
- A skin biopsy, or the removal of a sample of suspicious-looking skin for testing, can tell your doctor whether you have skin cancer and which type it is.
There are five stages of Skin cancer:
There are five stages of skin cancer: 0, I, II, III, and IV. Some stages have subgroups which are represented by letters A through D. The higher the number or letter, the more extensive the disease and (generally) the worse prognosis. For example, Stage II is more serious than Stage I, and Stage IIIC is more serious than Stage IIIB.
- Stage 0: tage 0 melanoma is limited to the upper layer of the skin’s epidermis in this stage. The malignant tumor is only present in the outermost layer of the skin (the epidermis), with no growth deeper than that (into the dermis). In Latin, “situ” means “in place.” There is no evidence that cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes or distant locations (metastasis).
- Stage I: Stage I melanoma is broken into two subgroups, IA and IB. This stage means that there are cancer cells in the epidermis and dermis. However, it is not any thicker than 2mm (Breslow thickness). It may or may not have ulceration but definitely no evidence of spread to lymph nodes or distant sites (metastasis).
- Stage II: Stage II melanoma is defined by tumor thickness and ulceration. There are cancer cells in both the epidermis and dermis, but there is no evidence that cancer has spread to lymph nodes or distant sites (metastasis). Stage II can be further divided into three subgroups: IIA, IIB, and IIC.
- Stage III: The fourth stage of melanoma is characterized by the presence of lymph node involvement and ulceration. In Stage III melanoma, cancer has spread to one or more regional lymph nodes, or there has been a deposit of melanoma in the skin or dermis along the lymphatics before reaching a lymph node known as an in-transit or satellite metastasis. There is no evidence that the disease has spread to other areas (metastasis). There are four subcategories of Stage III melanoma: IIIA, IIIB, IIIC, and IIID.
- Stage IV: Stage IV melanoma is the most severe form of skin cancer, where cancer has spread from the original tumor site to more distant parts of the body, like organs. This stage is characterized by an elevated level of serum lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), which indicates how aggressive the cancer is.
What are the treatments for Skin cancer?
Depending on the size, type, depth, and location of the skin cancer or actinic keratosis growths, your treatment choices may differ. Small surface skin cancers that are confined to the surface of the skin might not require additional treatment unless a complete excision is required. If further therapy is required, it might be:
- Freezing: Your doctor may use cryosurgery to destroy actinic keratoses and some small, early skin cancers. This process involves freezing the dead tissue with liquid nitrogen, which will then slough off when it thaws.
- Excisional surgery: For any type of skin cancer, this therapy is typically used. The cancerous region and surrounding normal skin are removed by your doctor in this method. In certain situations, a large excision — removing extra healthy skin around the tumor — might be advised.
- Mohs surgery: If you have difficult-to-treat skin cancer that is either large or recurring, this procedure may be for you. It’s often used on areas of the body where it’s necessary to conserve as much skin as possible, such as on the nose.
- Curettage and electrodesiccation or cryotherapy: After your doctor removes most of the growth, they scrape away layers of cancer cells using a device called a curet. This has a circular blade that can destroy any remaining cancer cells. In some cases, liquid nitrogen is used to freeze the base and edges of the treated area instead.
- Radiation therapy: Radiation treatment employs strong energy beams, such as X-rays, to destroy cancer cells. When cancer is unable to be completely removed via surgery, radiation therapy might be a viable option.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy drugs are used to kill cancer cells. For cancers only in the top layer of skin, anti-cancer agents in creams or lotions can be applied directly to the skin. Systemic chemotherapy is used to treat skin cancers that have spread to other parts of the body.
- Photodynamic therapy: This new treatment for skin cancer involves using a combination of laser light and drugs that makes cancer cells sensitive to light, which then destroys them.
- Biological therapy: Your body’s immune system is utilized in biological therapy to destroy cancer cells.
What are the side effects of Skin cancer treatment?
Cancer treatments may cause skin and nail changes. Talk with your health care team to learn what side effects your treatment may cause. While skin problems caused by radiation therapy and chemotherapy are often mild, they may be more severe if you are receiving a stem cell transplant, targeted therapy, or immunotherapy. Let your health care team know promptly of any noticeable skin changes so they can treat them accordingly.
- The skin on the part of your body that is being treated with radiation may become dry, peel, itch (pruritus), and turn red or darker as a result of radiation therapy. Your skin might appear sunburned or pink, or swollen. Sores can form that are painful, moist, and infected. This is known as a moist reaction.
- Chemo drugs can cause your skin to become dry, itchy, red, darker, or peeled. It’s quite simple to develop a minor rash or sunburn. This is known as photosensitivity. Some people experience skin pigmentation changes as well. Your nails might be dark and cracked, and your cuticles may throb. If you’ve had radiation treatment in the past, the skin where you got it may become red, blister, peel off, or hurt. This is known as radiation recall. A severe rash or hives, a burning sensation, or an allergic response to chemo drugs are all possible signs of a reaction caused by chemotherapy.
- Stem cell transplants run the risk of causing graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), which may present as skin problems, such as a rash, blisters, or thickening of the skin.
- A severe and sometimes severe rash can occur in some types of immunotherapy. Your skin might be itchy or burned.
- Targeted therapy can unfortunately, cause some skin problems like dryness, rashes, and nail discoloration. If you experience a rash while on this type of medication, be sure to speak with your doctor before discontinuing use.
What is the role of radiation therapy in Skin Cancer?
If a tumor is too large or in a difficult-to-reach area, radiation therapy may be the best solution. For patients who cannot go through surgery for other health reasons, radiation therapy can still offer many benefits. Oftentimes, small basal or squamous cell skin cancers can be cured and advanced cancer growths can be delayed with radiation therapy.
Radiation may also be utilized in tandem with other therapies. After surgery, for example, radiation can be used as an adjuvant (additional) therapy to destroy any small cancer cells that may not have been visible during the operation. This lowers the chance of cancer recurring after surgery. Radiation might also be used to help treat skin cancer that has spread to lymph nodes or other organs.
What is the prognosis for someone with Skin cancer?
If you have non-melanoma skin cancer, you may be concerned about your chances of survival. A prognosis is the doctor’s best guess at how a person’s cancer will affect him or her and how it will respond to therapy. Many things influence the prognosis and survival. Only a physician with comprehensive knowledge of your medical history, type, size, and grade of the tumor, as well as treatments chosen and response to treatment, can combine all this information with existing statistics in order to compute a prognosis.
A prognostic marker is a feature of the cancer or a quality of the patient that the physician will consider when determining a prognosis. Prognostic indicators assist doctors in predicting a prognosis and developing treatment plans.
Prognostic factors help doctors classify basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma into risk groups. The risk groups tell the doctor how likely it is that cancer will come back (recur). Doctors also use them to plan treatment.
Most non-melanoma skin cancers have a good prognosis. The following are predictive characteristics for non-melanoma skin cancer.
Risk Factors for Skin Cancer
Although skin cancer can affect anyone, people with certain characteristics are more likely to develop the disease:
- Achieving a lighter skin tone naturally.
- Do you have a sunburn that persists for more than three days, shows up as freckles or redness, or makes you uncomfortable in the sun?
- Golden and brown eyes are the most common.
- Red or blonde hair.
- A variety of different kinds, as well as a large number of moles.
- A history of skin cancer in your family.
- A history of skin cancer in my family.
- Old age.
How can you reduce your risk of getting Skin cancer?
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 3.5 million skin cancers are diagnosed each year. While the chances of developing skin cancer can be affected by factors like family history and sun exposure, there are several things that everyone can do to reduce their risk.
First, it’s important to avoid excess sun exposure and to wear sunscreen when outdoors. Additionally, wearing protective clothing like hats and long sleeves can help to block out harmful UV rays. And finally, regularly checking your skin for changes can help you catch any potential problems early on. By taking these simple steps, you can significantly reduce your risk of developing skin cancer.
We are here to help
After receiving a skin cancer diagnosis, you may feel scared or alone. But with our team of experienced doctors and nurses by your side, you can rest assured that you are getting the best possible treatment. We understand that each patient is unique and deserves their own individual care plan. So we will work closely with you to find the best option for your situation.
Don’t worry, we will help you through this difficult time. We will develop a plan that gives you the best chance for a full recovery, and if you have any questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to us.