Cancer is a disorder that involves abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells that disrupts the surrounding healthy tissues and spreads across the body. While the signs vary widely and may be asymptomatic in certain cases, the most common symptoms of cancer are abnormal lumps, unexplained fevers, night sweats or unintentional weight loss. Unhealthy lifestyle is one of the contributory factors to cancer which can be cured if detected at the wee stage. Cancer could be of various kinds and skin cancer is one of them.
Skin cancer occurs when there is abnormal and uncontrollable growth of skin cells. While skin cancer mostly occurs in the areas that are exposed to the sun, it may also develop in areas that are hidden from the sun. The risk of skin cancer can be curbed by limiting or staying away from the exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiations. A lighter natural skin colour, heredity, increasing age, blue or green eyes, blonde or red hair are some of the other factors that may amp up the chance of skin cancer. Skin cancer, like any other cancer, has a chance of better treatment when detected early.
Kinds of skin cancer
Skin cancer can be of various kinds, namely basal cell carcinoma, melanoma, nonmelanoma skin cancer and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin.
Basal cell carcinoma: This kind of skin cancer occurs in the skin area that is exposed to the sun like neck or face. It could appear as a pearly or waxy bump, a flat, flesh-coloured or brown scar like lesion, a bleeding or scabbing sore that comes back again, even after healing.
Melanoma: This kind of skin cancer can develop in any body parts, even in otherwise normal skin or an existing mole that may become malignant. Among men, it appears on the face and trunk. Among women, it usually develops on the lower legs. Melanoma can affect people with any kind of skin tone – whether light or dark. Among those with darker skin, it shows up on the palms and soles or under fingernails and toenails.
Squamous cell carcinoma: This kind of skin cancer mostly develops in sun-exposed areas like face, ears and hands. Those with darker skins are more prone to develop squamous cell carcinoma in areas which are not exposed to the sun. This may show up as a firm, red nodule or a flat lesion with a scaly, crusted surface.
The other rarer kinds of skin cancer include Kaposi sarcoma, Merkel cell carcinoma and sebaceous gland sarcoma.
Signs and symptoms of skin cancer
One must be aware of the various signs of skin cancer, so that it can be detected at the earliest. Here are the various signs and symptoms of skin cancer
● A little lump on the cheeks, ears, or neck which is smooth, pearly, or waxy. On the arms, legs, and face, there are flat or bumpy blotches or patches that are blue, black, pink, red, or purple in colour.
● A flat, rough, or scaly lesion which is pink, red, or brown in appearance and can be seen on arms, legs, trunk, or face with the naked eye.
● Lumps that develop quickly and may break out as sores or ulcers.
● Skin lesions that resemble scars.
● A mole that bleeds, changes colour, or is larger than usual.
● A thick nodule that is either pink or red in colour
Prevention and treatment
Skin cancer can be prevented by taking the necessary steps like staying in shade, wearing clothing covering arms and legs, covering and masking the face, head, ears and neck from getting exposed to the sun rays. Using sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays and a broad-spectrum of sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.
Several skin cancer treatments are used either alone or in combination to treat skin cancer. The most common skin cancer treating methods include cryotherapy, excisional surgery, mesh surgery, curettage and electrodessication, chemotherapy and immunotherapy, radiation therapy and photodynamic therapy.
Being aware of the kinds of skin cancer, its signs and treatment keeps one at an upper hand in terms of detecting early and initiating treatment intervention. For more information on the advances in skin cancer treatment, reach out to the doctor and make the best use of premiere cancer care.
Dr. Satish, Consultant Medical Oncologist, HCG Cancer Centre Ranchi