Skin Cancer - Understanding And Treatment
Skin cancer is usually dismissed as an insignificant disease because we don’t see too many instances of friends and relatives struck by it.
To be sure, skin cancer like all other cancers cannot be underestimated. So knowing more about the disease, the symptoms, treatment and prevention helps create more awareness in you and your family.
What is Skin Cancer?
Skin Cancer is a malignant tumour arising in skin cells. It occurs when unrepaired DNA triggers genetic multiplication of skin cells.
Why Skin Cancer is a Threat?
Worldwide skin care is on the rise. Nonmelanoma skin cancer (NMSC) is its commonest variety.
On a positive note, incidence of all varieties of skin cancers is lower among Indians due to the protective effects of melanin. National surveys and cross-country data in India are unavailable so stating anything with certainty is not possible. However, there are indirect indications from some reports that NMSCs may be on the rise in India. Reports of rising atypical cases lead one to believe that factors other than ultraviolet radiation may be instrumental in the occurrences of these cancers, particularly in the skin types prevalent in India.
What Are Its Symptoms?
The symptoms of NMSC can be detected quite easily. They usually develop most often on skin that is exposed to the sun.
It will help you to detect skin cancers early if you know how your skin normally looks. This way you will identify any changes more easily. Get someone you trust to check your back or other areas that you can’t observe easily. This is important if you sunbathe a lot or if you regularly work outside without a shirt on.
How is Skin Cancer Caused?
Skin cancers are commonly caused by exposure to the sun. It could be either from long term or short-term periods of intense sun exposure and burning.
Exposure to ultraviolet light in sunlight damages the DNA in the skin cells. The damage can preface the onset of cancer by several years.
What Skin Cancers Look Like?
Skin cancers look like the following in a majority of cases:
A spot or sore that itches, hurts, or is scabbed or bleeds for more than 4 weeks
A spot or sore that does not heal within 4 weeks
Areas where the skin has broken down (a typical ulcer) and doesn't heal within 4 weeks, and there is no apparent reason for the breakage
An ulcer that breaks down and begins to get deeper is an erosion
A small, slow growing, shiny, pink or red lump is a basal cell skin cancer. If left untended, basal cell skin cancers tend to become crusty, bleed, or develop into an ulcer.
Squamous cell skin cancers are usually pink lumps. They may have hard or scaly skin on the surface. They are often tender. They can bleed easily and develop into an ulcer.
How To Treat Skin Cancer?
The main treatment for skin cancer with most patients is surgery.
Another option is radiotherapy. This can be considered instead of surgery if an operation is not suitable. Radiotherapy can also be given post-surgery to reduce the chances of the cancer recurring.
Another alternative for basal cell skin cancer is a treatment called photodynamic therapy (PDT). It involves administering a drug to make the skin sensitive to light. This is followed by treatment with a bright light to the affected area.
Chemotherapy is only occasionally used for skin cancer.
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