Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. Although it can be seen on any part of the body, 80% of them are seen in the face, head, and neck area. Therefore, they pose a high mortality risk, and are more likely to create deformities.
The most important cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet rays. Skin cancer can be seen in anyone from any gender, at any age, and with any skin color. Some people are at a higher risk:
- Light skinned people, especially those who have freckles.
- Those who have light colored hair and eyes.
- Those who have a great number of moles, or very big or deformed moles.
- Those who have relatives with skin cancer.
- Those who have undergone sunburn, to a degree that causes blistering,
- Those who have spent a long time in external environments, where there exist the sun’s rays.
- Those who live in places like Turkey, where the sun’s rays are highly effective throughout the year.
- Those who have received radiotherapy (radiation therapy).
Types of Skin Cancer
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. This type of cancer is the least dangerous skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma grows slowly and poses a lower risk of spread. Therefore, it is less life-threatening when diagnosed at an early stage. If treatment is delayed, it grows towards the deeper layers of the skin, and moreover, it may also reach the deeper tissues and the bone. Ones that have reached this stage are more difficult to treat.
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common skin cancer. It is mostly seen in the lips, face, and ears. Sometimes they may spread to the lymph nodes and internal organs. If the treatment is delayed, the disease becomes life threatening.
A third type of skin cancer is “malignant melanoma” (mm). Although it is the least common type of skin cancer, its incidence rate is increasing with each passing day in sun-drenched countries like Turkey, especially due to the changes that have been experienced in the atmosphere in recent years. In addition, mm is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. Mm, completely curable when diagnosed at an early stage, can cause death by quickly spreading to the entire body in case of a delayed treatment.
Other Formations Seen on the Skin
Most commonly moles and blemishes called the keratoses are seen on the skin. Moles consisting of dark colored skin cells can be on a level with the skin, or raised from the skin. Congenital large, multicolored, and amorphous moles are likely to turn into mm, although most of them are not dangerous. Moles, which are continuously exposed to traumas due to hard parts of clothes such as collars, and jewelry such as necklaces; as well as moles in places vulnerable to traumas such as palm and soles, should be surgically removed. Some others can be removed for cosmetic reasons.
Keratoses are with a dry-rough surface containing red or brown blemishes. They generally develop in the sun-exposed parts of the body. Some of them are likely to turn into squamous cell cancer.
The Cases in which Skin Cancer is Suspected
Basal and squamous cell cancers can be in a wide variety of colors and appearances. Initial form of the cancer can be small, white or red colored swelling or a nodule. Its surface can be smooth and bright but can also be matte and with hollows. Or, it can be seen in the form of a spot with a rough, dry and scabby surface; or in the form of a group of nodules having a scabby surface; or in the form of a wound lasting for a period of time longer than four weeks; or in the form of a white blemish giving the impression of a wound.
Malignant melanoma can start developing as a result of any sudden change in the size, shape or color of an existing mole, or can also start developing as a totally new formation. If a mole in the body is asymmetric, i.e., its two sides are not exactly identical, if the mole’s boundaries are irregular (notching formation, fading), if sudden have occurred in the color of the mole, if the mole is greater than 6 millimeters, or if it suddenly grew, there is a risk of malignant melanoma.
In suspected cases, it is definitely required to see a plastic surgeon or dermatologist. The both medical specialists are adequately equipped for the diagnosis of skin cancer. If it has been diagnosed by a dermatologist, and if it is required to be surgically removed, the operation is done by a plastic surgeon.
Diagnosis and Treatment?
For a definitive diagnosis of the suspicious lesion on the skin, it should be surgically removed completely in small formations and partially in big formations, and then that removed part should be examined under microscope by a pathologist. Various surgical procedures can be performed depending on the type of the cancer, its location in the body, as well as its stage and size.
It can easily be removed under local anesthesia, if it is small and at an early stage. If the cancer has reached big sizes or it is at an advanced stage, more complex interventions need to be made under general anesthesia. After large-scale interventions, transplantation of a skin part called flap or graft can be required.
After treatment, the patient should be monitored at frequent intervals. Precautions should be taken to prevent the recurrence of the same problems or emergence of other similar problems. These conditions apply to people who have never gotten cancer, as well.
- In cases where staying or working under direct sunlight for a long term is a necessity, wide-brimmed hats and long-sleeved clothing should be worn.
- Lotions of at least sun protection factor (SPF) 15 should be applied to the remaining parts of the body, outside the clothing. It should be noted that one-time application of such lotions is not adequate, and the application should be repeated frequently after each sweating or going swimming.
- Each individual should examine his/her body on a regular basis, and should consult a plastic surgeon or dermatologist as soon as possible in case of formations that he/she finds suspicious or in case of sudden changes.