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Skin Cancer: Signs and Symptoms

The skin is the largest organ of the body. Due to its large size and constant exposure to the sun, skin cancer is one of the most prevalent types of human cancer.

Skin cancers have three types: Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC), and Melanoma. Most skin cancers are BCCs or SCCs, which can be disfiguring locally if not treated promptly, but seldom spread to other regions of the body. Malignant melanomas are rare skin cancers that are very aggressive and prone to spreading to other regions of the body. Melanomas can be dangerous if they are not detected and treated early.

Recognizing skin cancer symptoms and signs is crucial to detect them as early as possible. The earlier the diagnosis, the higher your chances are of successful treatment. The most prevalent indicator of skin cancer is a change in your skin. It might be new growth, an unhealed sore, or a change in a mole. Not all skin cancers have the same appearance. If you experience any of these symptoms, see a doctor.

The Signs of Skin Cancer:

BCCs, SCCs, and melanomas have different warning signs. Look out for the following skin cancer symptoms and signs:

  1. BCC: A raised waxy bump of smooth skin, a recurring sore that bleeds or scabs, or a flat brown or skin-colored lesion are usually the first signs of BCC cancer. These often appear on sun-exposed areas such as the head, shoulders, or neck.
  2. SCC: SCCs also occur in sun-exposed areas like the hands, ears, or face. Dark-skinned people are more prone to developing squamous cell carcinoma on parts of the body that rarely get sun exposure. SCCs appear as solid red protrusions or scaly, crusty lesions having a flat surface.
  3. Melanoma: Melanomas can develop anywhere on the body, including areas not typically exposed to the sun. They may develop as dark lesions, ulcers, moles, or sores. Melanomas may also develop in existing moles. When looking for melanoma symptoms, remember ABCDE: 
  • Asymmetrical: When observing a spot or mole, check if it has an irregular or uneven shape with two distinct parts.  
  • Border Irregularity: Note the border of the spot or mole. A melanoma will have a rough, uneven, jagged border. 
  • Color: Uneven colouring with red, pink, white, blue, or blue-black sections is a sign of melanoma. 
  • Diameter: A non-cancerous mole or spot will be no larger than ½ an inch or the size of a pea.  
  • Evolving: Note if there has been a change in size, shape, or colour in recent weeks or months.
Other than BCCs, SCCs, and melanoma, there are three types of lesser-known skin cancers. They are: 
  1. Kaposi Sarcoma: This rare skin cancer occurs in the skin’s blood vessels and forms red or purple spots on the skin or mucous membranes. Kaposi sarcoma primarily affects people with weaker immune systems, such as those with AIDS, and those who use drugs that reduce their natural immunity, such as those who have had organ transplants. In addition, young African males and older men of Italian or Eastern European Jewish ancestry are also at elevated risks of Kaposi sarcoma.
  2. Merkel Cell Carcinoma: Merkel cell carcinoma commonly affects the head, trunk, and neck by producing hard, glossy nodules on or just beneath the epidermis, as well as in hair follicles.
  3. Sebaceous Gland Carcinoma: This rare and severe cancer begins in the skin’s oil glands. Sebaceous gland carcinomas, which often manifest as hard, painless nodules, can arise anywhere, although most occur on the eyelid, where they are commonly misdiagnosed as other eyelid issues.

Diagnosis and Treatment: 

At the first sign of any of the above skin cancer symptoms, schedule an appointment with your dermatologist, as they specialize in skin conditions and diseases. Doctors must conduct a skin biopsy to determine whether you have skin cancer. If the biopsy results return positive for skin cancer, your doctor will begin treatment based on the type and extent of cancer.

Different forms of treatment are available for different types of skin cancers. They are: 

  1. Surgery: Removal of the cancerous growth. 
  2. Chemotherapy: A medicinal treatment that uses strong chemicals to kill your body’s fast-growing cancer cells. 
  3. Radiation Therapy: Radiation is directed at the tumour from outside the body and does not penetrate further than the skin. 
  4. Photodynamic Therapy: Photodynamic therapy, or PDT, combines a light-sensitizing medication and very intense light to destroy cancer cells. 
  5. Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy is a treatment that aids the immune system in locating and killing melanoma cells using medication. 
  6. Targeted Therapy: Drugs are used to more accurately identify and block the actions of chemicals that are important for cancer cell development. 
  7. Chemical Peel: A chemical peel is a precancerous skin lesion therapy in which your doctor applies trichloroacetic acid (TCA) directly to the skin, causing the top layer to peel away. 
  8. Clinical Trials: New pharmaceuticals are tested on volunteers in clinical trials to see if they are safe, effective, and perhaps superior to existing therapies.

You could find a cure for most skin cancers if you seek treatment before they spread. It is critical to detect skin cancer symptoms early and get treatment as soon as possible.

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