Skin cancer happens when the normal skin cells start dividing abnormally due to mutations. Skin cancers usually form in those body parts that are exposed to sunlight. However, these cancers can also be seen forming in body parts that are not exposed to sunlight.
It is one of the less common cancers in India.
Skin cancers can be treated successfully if they are detected early. It is important to not ignore any abnormal skin growths, as these may be indicative of skin cancer.
Based on the cell type that they originate from, skin cancers are classified into the following types:
Other rare types of skin cancer include cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans (DFSP) and sebaceous carcinoma.
The symptoms may vary depending on the type of skin cancer. Following are some of the main symptoms of skin cancer:
The exact cause of skin cancer is not known. However, a few risk factors are found to increase one’s chances of getting skin cancer:
Skin cancer is one of the few cancers that can be seen. And, it can be detected with very few tests:
a. Physical Exam: When a patient presents himself /herself with skin cancer symptoms, the doctor physically examines the patient first for any abnormal moles, skin outgrowths, sores, etc. If he/she suspects skin cancer, then additional tests may be recommended.
b. Biopsy: During the biopsy, a small sample of the abnormal tissue is collected and examined under the microscope for the presence of cancer cells. This test helps in obtaining a definitive diagnosis of the disease.
For staging, various imaging tests, namely PET CT scans, MRI scans, etc., may be recommended. Lymph nodes that are close to the tumour may also be collected and examined for the signs of metastasis.
Before planning the treatment, various factors, such as the type of cancer, its stage, its location, the patient’s age and whether the disease is primary or recurrent, etc., are considered.
There are multiple treatment options available for the management of skin cancers.
a. Surgery: Surgery is the primary treatment for skin cancer. During this procedure, the cancer tissue is surgically removed by the surgeon. Surgery could be combined with other treatments to enhance the overall effectiveness of the treatment. There are different types of surgeries available for the management of skin cancer:
b. Radiation Therapy: This treatment uses powerful radiation beams, which could be X-rays or proton beams, to destroy the cancer cells. For skin cancer cases, radiation therapy may be combined with treatment options to the cancer cells completely, or ease the symptoms caused by the disease in the case of advanced-stage skin cancers.
c. Chemotherapy: For skin cancers that have not penetrated the deep layers of skin, the doctors may recommend topical chemotherapy, wherein creams containing anticancer drugs are applied on the lesions in order to kill the abnormal cells. As a localised treatment, topical chemotherapy helps in reducing damage to healthy tissues.
On the other hand, systemic chemotherapy may be recommended in cases where cancer has spread to other organs. This approach helps in destroying cancer cells throughout the body.
d. Photodynamic Therapy: This is a unique form of therapy recommended for skin cancer wherein a combination of high-energy laser beams and drugs is used to destroy the cancer cells.
Yes, skin cancers are treatable. However, one needs to be mindful of the symptoms and report them to the doctor. This can help in early detection and appropriate treatment.
Yes, skin cancers can be detected in the early stages, provided you are aware of the symptoms that you need to look out for.
Here is how you examine your skin for the signs of skin cancer:
Yes, skin cancers can come back – they could recur in the same location or in regions that are far off. However, treating recurrent skin cancers successfully is possible.
Skin cancer patients should keep up their follow-up appointments without fail, as these can help in detecting recurring skin cancers in their early stages when doctors can treat them in the best way possible.
There are a few measures that you can follow to reduce your risk of getting skin cancer: