THE skin is composed of many different types of cells-basal cell, squamous cells, melanocytes, others-that naturally grow and slough off overtime A diagnosis of skin cancer means some of these cells have become abnormal (or mutated) and are starting to reproduce out of control.
This happens largely as a result of accumulated sun damage, although other factors, such as skin type, genetics, and environmental exposure, are also involved.
According to Best Health Magazine, Basal cell carcinoma is the most prevalent form of skin cancer. It occurs in the skin’s top layer (called the epidermis).
The cells gather into cluster and replicate, growing slowly and replicate, growing slowly and forming painless, translucent bumps. Most appear on the face, although any part of you exposed to the sun is vulnerable; ears, neck, back, chest, arms, legs. It’s rare, however, for these cancers to grow deep into the skin or spread to internal organs.
Squamous cell carcinoma also starts in the epidermis. It’s earliest precancerous form is often actinic keratosis lesions, or sun spots. Squamous cell cancer may begin as raised, reddish lumps, which sometimes become open sores (ulcerate). It relatively unusual for this type of cancer to spread beyond the skin, but it can be deadly if it does. You’re increased risk for a more involved type of squamous cell cancer if the lesion develops on the penis or the vulva as a sequel to an infection with certain strains of gerutal warts.
Far less common but more dangerous is malignant melanoma. This skin cancer arise from melanocytes cells that produce melanin, the pigment that gives color to skin, hair, and eyes.
Melanin is concentrated in most moles and also acts to protect your skin from the sun’s ultraviolent (uv) radiation, giving you a tan as a defense mechanism. Melanocytes that reproduce too quickly and appear as irregularly shaped, light –brown to black blemishes, signal trouble.
This can occur within an existing mole, on unblemished skin, or, rarely, in the eye or under nails left unattended, a melanoma will penetrate deep into the skin and may spread (metastasize) via the lymphatic system or the bloodstream.
TREATMENT FOR SKIN CANCER
The purpose of skin cancer treatment is to halt further growth of any malignancy. The specific approaches that your doctor will use are tired to your particular type of lesion. For most basal cell and squamous cell cancers that have not spread, the strategy is the same. Destroy the lesion by burning, freezing, or scraping it off. Usually not painful, these procedure are done in a doctor’s office after numbing the site with a local anesthetic.
For basal cell or squamous cell cancers that have spread, nonsurgial techniques (medication, radiation, or other therapies) are generally used. In choosing the appropriate treatment, you and your doctor will weigh factors such as where the lesion is, how deep it is, and how quickly it’s growing.
Before treatment begins, make sure your skin cancer diagnosis has been confirmed with a biopsy, a laboratory analysis of the excised tissue.
A malignant melanoma that’s caught early, as a “local” cancer, is removed surgically. Your prospects for a ful recovery are excellen, nearly 95% of superficial malignant melanomas can be cured. But once the cancer has penetrated deeper (even just a couple of millimeters down or into your lymph nodes), the strategy changes dramatically. Melanoma can spread quickly and prove fatal. While melanoma accounts for only 4% of skin cancer diagnoses, it’s responsible for 80% of skin cancer deaths. Cutting out the cancer is still coucial, but so are chemotherapy or radiation, which may slow down the tumour and ease discomfort. Once a melanoma has spread, “cures” are rare, so early detection and removeal are key.
In very rare cases, a melanoma spontaneously disappears when the immune system mounts a strong resistance. Researchers, witnessing this fierce stand, are exploring the value of immunotherapy drugs, therapeutic vaccines, and other strategies to stmulate the immune system of patients with malignant melanoma. Ealy results of these novel therapies show promising results and safety in the treatment of malignant melanoma.
MEDICATIONS FOR SKIN CANCER
For basal cell carcinoma, prescription creams such as fiuorouracil (Efudex, Fluoroplex) are used with caution because cancer can still spread under the healed surface of the skin. Many experts are now placing hope in a cream called imiquimod (Aldara), normally used for genital wants. In pilot studies, this cream has successfully cleared up superficial basal cell cancers in about 90% of patients.
Medications aren’t needed to treat thin melanomas (typically less than 1.5mm thick), but if the skin cancer has spread, you’ll want to consider chemotherapy to stop the growth and ease discomfort. Just remember no drug is a “cure” and any can cause side effects.
Some dugs are given intraveneously, others are taken orally. Decarbazine (DTIC) is commonly used, although a combination of DTIC, carmustine (BCNU), cisplatin, and tamoxifen is becoming popular. Researchers worldwide are constantly testing new blends.
If your melanoma is advanced, you might want to find out about the developing field of immunotherapy (also called bidogical therapy).