Concerned that too many people are not taking a diagnosis of non-melanoma skin cancer seriously enough, dermatologists strongly urge people who have received such a diagnosis to seek substantiated information regarding these types of skin cancers instead of relying on misinformation and misconceptions about non-melanoma skin cancer.
Commonly diagnosed non-melanoma skin cancers include squamous cell and basal cell carcinoma. When people neglect to follow through with treatment for these cancers, both squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas eventually sink into deeper layers of the skin instead of simply spreading outward on the skin. Because it may appear that BCC or SCC lesions are not “growing” visibly over extended areas of the skin, people often think the lesions are not worsening. Consequently, they fail to get proper treatment for the lesions, a poor decision that often results in a more serious diagnosis of melanoma.
Dangers of Neglecting Basal Cell and Squamous Cell Carcinomas
Both are capable of destroying skin tissue and even bone if left to intensify and develop into irreversible skin cancer. If a doctor gives you a diagnosis of Stage III skin cancer, this means the cancer has extended deep into the skin where muscle, cartilage and bone is readily accessible by out-of-control cancer cells. At this stage, it may have even spread to the lymph nodes, a situation that facilitate further spreading of the cancer.
A popular myth about skin cancer is that it remains on the skin and can be quickly removed at any time by excision of the lesion. Unfortunately, squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas can spread to other parts of the body just like lung or prostate cancer, if medically neglected. It is even possible for untreated non-melanoma skin cancers to eventually metastasize within several months of initially appearing as innocuous skin lesions.
The Importance of Getting a Professional Skin Examination from a Dermatologist
Experienced dermatologists will examine skin lesions, moles and discolorations to determine what they are and if they could develop into melanoma. One way they do this is through dermatoscopy, a procedure integrating the use of a special skin microscope equipped with powerful illuminating capabilities and extreme magnifying lenses. With a dermatoscope, a dermatologist can also view skin patterns and invisible structures growing on the skin that cannot be seen with the naked eye. High-tech computer software enhances the ability of a dermatoscopy procedure to assist a dermatologist in diagnosing suspicious skin lesions as well as mapping mole growth and comparing previous images of a patient’s lesions with recent ones.
While regular self-examinations are important for discovering sores that fail to heal, dark-colored nodules that have suddenly emerged or moles that exhibit irregular borders, most people cannot detect the subtle changes in various skin conditions that a dermatologist can immediately discern. Pictures of basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are available on the Internet but each individual’s skin reacts differently to the presence of skin cancer cells, resulting in lesions that may be cancerous but do not resemble the traditional image of a BCC or SCC.
Treatment Methods for Non-Melanoma Skin Cancers
Depending on the type of skin cancer detected and the extent to which it has been allowed to develop, treatment for skin cancer may be non-invasive and performed in a dermatologist’s office using photodynamic therapy or effective topical agents for lesions in their early stages of development. Surgical excision or Mohs surgery are more invasive forms of treatment that involve the dermatologist slicing away layers of the lesions, examining each layer for evidence of cancer cells and continuing the excision process until layers no longer show signs of cancer.
Electrodesiccation and curettage is another procedure performed by dermatologists on BCCs and SCCs. By using a curette to scrape away layers of a lesion and then employing a hyfrecator (a tool that emits high-frequency electrical impulses) to denature the exposed dermal layer two or three times, dermatologists are able to remove all cancer cells that have reached into lower layers of the skin. Patients undergoing EDC are given a local anesthetic and do not need to worry about suture infections since the lesion experiences an excision rather than an incision.
For the treatment of superficial BCCs or squamous cell carcinomas diagnosed as Stage 0 SCCs, topical therapy may be indicated since the lesions have not yet penetrated into the lower skin layers. Topical medications modify the response of the immune system to the lesions by stimulating the immune system into providing a stronger defense attack against all cancer cells, viruses and bacteria.
Currently, one out of every five individuals in the U.S. is considered “at risk” for being diagnosed with some type of skin cancer after age 30, primarily due to excessive exposure to UV rays, the increasing popularity of tanning beds and failure to use enough sunscreen when venturing outdoors. Additionally, researchers have also found some evidence that susceptibility to skin cancer may run in families, meaning that there may be a genetic component to the development of non-melanoma skin cancers.
Mayoral Dermatology specialists would like to strongly emphasize the importance of receiving professional skin examinations as well as receiving the best treatment methods possible when a diagnosis of non-melanoma skin cancer is given. With the cutting-edge methods available at our facility designed to effectively treat all forms of skin conditions, we can quickly initiate the proper treatment program to begin aggressively treating non-melanoma skin cancers before they start to negatively affect your overall health.