Each year, approximately two million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States. This condition is the most common type of cancer around the world, and its incidence is rising. While skin cancer has a low mortality rate, some forms of it can be life-threatening. Each case requires prompt diagnosis and treatment.
Symptoms of Skin Cancer
Skin cancer usually develops on the parts of your body that receive the most sun exposure. This includes your face, ears, neck, and lips. The symptoms differ between people and with the type of cancer. Some of the most common symptoms of skin cancer include a mole, growth, or pigmented area that grows in size or changes in shape. A persistent lump or scab that itches or bleeds could be skin cancer. Some cancers manifest as flat, scaly, or crusty areas of skin.
Types of Skin Cancer
There are three types of skin cancer that affect health. Basal cell carcinoma is often seen on areas of your body exposed to the sun. It is the most common type of skin cancer. It looks like a small, raised bump. It is flesh-colored and similar to a persistent pimple. The area may look shiny and it could bleed. It can grow in size.
A squamous cell carcinoma is usually found on the hands, forehead, nose, or lip. They can also hide in unexposed places, such as the genitals or inside the mouth. They manifest as an ulcer or bump that does not heal. Exposure to chemicals, radiation, and heat burns increase your risk of this cancer. It can spread to neighboring lymph nodes. Melanoma develops in the skin’s pigment cells. They can develop anywhere. The cancerous growths look like moles. They have an irregular shape, border, and color. This cancer can spread to lymph glands and throughout your body.
Specialists Involved in Skin Cancer Care
Many specialty areas of medicine are involved in treating skin cancer, including otolaryngology. Head and neck specialists also treat skin cancer. If a skin cancer is found on the ear, nose or throat, an otolaryngologist may be involved in reconstructive surgery.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Skin Cancer
The diagnosis of skin cancer is made based on your medical history, symptoms, and a physical exam. Your physician will likely perform a biopsy of the lesion and send it to a pathologist for confirmation of the diagnosis. If the growth is malignant, your doctor will develop a treatment plan based on the type and severity of the cancer. If your cancer has not spread to your lymph nodes or other areas of your body, a simple excision of the growth may remove the cancer. Non-surgical treatments may be used if you are not a candidate for surgery, if the entire cancerous growth cannot be excised or if the growth was detected early. Non-surgical skin cancer treatments include radiation therapy, cryosurgery, immunotherapy, and chemotherapy. Cryosurgery freezes the growth while immunotherapy, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy target the cancer cells and eliminate them.