Skin Cancer

What is Skin Cancer?

The importance of skin is taught to us from early years. And indeed, our skin has so many known and unknown functions. Our skin often does not get the credit it deserves. It is the largest bodily organ. It covers an average surface area around twenty square feet. Our skin acts as protective barrier as well as receptor for environmental inputs. There are three layers of the skin. These are epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis. Also, the skin is comprised of three major cells. These are: 

  • Basal cells
  • Melanocytes 
  • Squamous cells 

Doctors have identified more than two hundred cancer types based on organ or tissue where the tumor generates. These are called primary cancers. Metastasis occurs when the cancer spreads from its original location to others. When a cancer migrates from its original location to new sites, it is called secondary cancer. Skin cancer, as the name suggests, starts within the skin cells. 

The oncology department at Media provides excellence in the form of world-class treatment for cancer. Our department is driven by collective experience and clinical excellence spanning more than three decades. We have a multidisciplinary approach for treating all forms and types of cancer. Our oncologists as well as onco-surgeons get support from latest technologies for cancer treatment. We boast a team comprising highly-skilled and experienced reconstructive surgeons for delivering extensive treatment for all patients, children, and patient alike.

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    Types

    Experts have identified several categories of skin cancer. The major types identified are: 

    Basal-Cell Carcinoma: This skin cancer category is most prevalent. This skin cancer is more prevalent among people with lighter skin tone. BCC is induced with years of sun exposure as well as indoor tanning. The cancer appears like a bulge in the shape of a pearl. Also, reddish patches of skin across the neck, arms or head can indicate basal-cell cancer. 

    Squamous-Cell Carcinoma: This is the second most common skin cancer type after basal cell. Men are more prone to this cancer type. Similarly, men with lighter skin have higher risk of acquiring the cancer compared to black men. It can appear as a scaly park or red and solid bump. It can also appear as a frequently reopening sore. The cancer is commonly found across the outer part of the face, neck, ear, chest, arms and back. This is because all these parts are significantly exposed to sunlight. Squamous-cell cancer results in deformity and skin damage. The cancer should be detected & treated early on to prevent malignancies and spread. 

    Melanoma: Melanoma is one of the most difficult skin cancer types. It appears as a brown or black mole or black patch above the skin. It is essential to diagnose and treat this skin tumor to minimize negative effects. 

    Other Skin Cancer Types:

    Kaposi’s Sarcoma: It is also known as KSHV (Kaposi Sarcoma Herpesvirus). This virus attacks the lymph and blood vessels, resulting in skin cancer. HIV patients have the highest risk of acquiring this skin cancer. Kaposi sarcoma results in swelling, appearing as a purple, red or brown patch. The patch can also be skin tumor. Once the tumor spreads across the body, it becomes fatal. 

    T-cell Lymphoma: It is also known as CTCL (Cutaneous T-cell Lymphoma). This skin cancer is caused when T-cell lymphocytes become tumorous. The skin cancer is more prevalent among people above age 50 years. T-cell lymphoma can be treated with immunotherapy, chemotherapy as well as targeted treatments. 

    Sebaceous-Gland Carcinoma: This cancer malignancy affects our oil glands. This skin cancer type is often considered uncommon yet dangerous. Women above 70 years age are more prone to this skin cancer type. Our eyes are more prone to this cancer, yet it can be found in any part of our bodies. 

    Merkel-cell carcinoma: This skin cancer type is also rare. This tumor affects our Merkel cells. Merkel cells, when exposed to light regularly, proliferate in an abnormal manner. This results in a tumorous growth, resulting in cancer. This skin cancer can spread very quickly. Even in initial stages, the cancer can spread to distant organs and lymph nodes. The conditions include painless, firm and quickly developing lumps in the shape of a dome. These lumps become more elevated and change to red or violet in color as cancer progresses. 

    Dermatofibrosarcoma Protuberans: This is also a rare type of skin cancer. It develops resulting from overproduction of platelet-generated growth factors. This is usually due to genetic abnormalities. This skin cancer type affects the trunk and limbs of the body, along with the dermis of the skin.

    Symptoms

    The symptoms of skin cancer depend on several factors such as cancer stage and type. Some patients are at a higher risk of this tumor. As such, they should monitor the various warning signs associated with skin cancer. Some major skin cancer symptoms are: 

    • Consistently appearing mole which does not disappear 
    • Mole color and size continuously disappearing 
    • Itching and burning sensation across the lesions 
    • Lesions with bumpy or uneven edges
    • Unusual color at the spot like pink, red, white, or black
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    Causes

    Our DNA consists of information related to cell division. Skin cancer happens as a result of DNA mutation. As a result of this mutation, the information within the DNA is damaged. This results in uncontrolled cell division. Yet, the exact reason behind these mutations is unknown. The DNA mutations can occur in the squamous cells, basal cells, or melanocytes. Tumors in all these cells cause cancer. The treatment for skin cancer is dependent on the tumor site or origin of the tumor. 

    Additional Risk Factors

    Several additional factors can increase the risk towards skin cancer. These risk factors are: 

    Excessive Exposure to Sun: Individuals who are exposed to sunlight are more prone to developing this cancer. Those with considerable skin tanning have higher risk of developing skin cancer. This is due to the fact that tanning occurs as an inflammatory reaction towards solar exposure. 

    Family History: If a family member suffered from skin cancer, the risk of developing this tumor goes up. Furthermore, those who already contracted skin cancer once are at a higher risk of developing it again. 

    Harmful Radiation: Individuals who are exposed to toxic radiations are more prone to developing skin cancer. These can be skin treatment radiation or exposure to dangerous substances like arsenic. 

    Fragile Immune System: People with a fragile immune system have higher risks of acquiring skin cancer. These include patients with AIDS and those on immunosuppressants. 

    Pre-cancerous Lesions: These are lesions that can gradually become cancerous. It is important to consult with your doctor in case of any sudden deviations in the skin characteristics. 

    Fair Skin: Anyone can catch skin cancer irrespective of their skin color. However, those with lighter skin tone are more prone to developing this cancer. Lighter skin means lesser pigment or melanin in the skin. This may give lesser protection from dangerous UV rays. Also, there are certain traits that can increase the risk of getting skin cancer. These include people with red hair or blond hair, sunburn or freckle or light-coloured eyes.

    Stages

    Skin cancer is usually categorised into distinct stages based on the origin site as well as the skin cancer type. It means different skin cancer category will have different progression timelines as well as different symptoms. The symptoms and progression are different for basal-cell and squamous-cell carcinoma. Your healthcare practitioner will determine the cancer stage only after right assessments and diagnosis. The general physician or dermatologist will perform regular tests and will check with you. After that, you may be recommended to an experienced oncosurgeon or oncologist.

    Diagnosis

    Diagnosis of skin cancer is undertaken by these tools and methods: 

    Physical Examination: In this process your doctor will examine the changes in the skin. This will help determine the stage and prognosis of cancer. This examination is necessary to recommend further tests. 

    Biopsy: Skin cancer patients are often advised to undergo biopsy. Tissue sample is obtained from the tumor-infected skin. This is sent to the lab for testing. This biopsy determines the type and prognosis of the skin case. Based on this diagnosis, relevant treatment plans are recommended.

    Treatment

    Top treatment methods for management of skin cancer are as follows: 

    Surgery: It is an excisional treatment. Surgery is done to remove the tumor and all affected parts. The healthy tissues surrounding the tumor are also removed for reducing chances of recurrence. 

    Cryotherapy: This process is used for treating basal-cell and thin squamous-cell cancers. A round blade is used, and the cancerous layer of cells are removed. Sometimes, liquid nitrogen is utilised for freezing the cells. 

    Mohs Surgery: This surgical process is opted when treatment of the cancer is challenging. This process helps in preserving maximum healthy cells. Cancerous tissues are removed layer-by-layer in this surgical process. Each layer is evaluated under microscope. 

    Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy involves prescription drugs for destroying the cancer cells. This treatment is selected if the tumor is restricted to topical tissue layer. Lotions and creams are also prescribed for external administration. For advanced stages, systemic chemotherapy is used. 

    Radiotherapy: This treatment method is used for destroying the cancer cells with high radiation energy. Radiation therapy is open used with chemotherapy or surgery. 

    Phototherapy: In this therapy patients receive specific drugs. These drugs make the tumor cells more reactive and sensitive to the light. This helps in destroying the cancer cells. They are targeted with laser.

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