Skin cancer has been a major cause of illness in Australia. It accounts for the largest number of cancers diagnosed in the country every year. The good news is that over 90% of all cases are curable if they are diagnosed and treated early enough. But to cure skin cancer, you must have to spot it on time.
Unlike other forms of cancer that develop inside the body, skin cancer is usually visible as it forms on the outside. That’s why you can easily spot it when you have one. But how do you determine that it’s cancer and not just some rashes or irregular patches on the surface of your skin?
Basically, you can go directly to your trusted dermatologists and have a comprehensive skin cancer check. But you can reduce the risk of having skin cancer by knowing exactly how to detect it in its early stages. In this article, you will learn more about the symptoms of skin cancer and the ways to prevent it.
Types of Skin Cancer
Skin cancer primarily develops on sun-exposed areas of the skin, including face, lips, ears, neck, chest, arms, hands, and scalp. It also forms on areas that rarely see the light of day, such as palms, beneath fingernails and toenails, and genital areas.
To understand how skin cancer occurs and how it can be prevented, you must first know its three main types: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma, the most common type of skin cancer, forms from certain cells of the outer layer of the skin. It appears to be a small, shiny bump on the skin that enlarges slowly. This bump may break open and form a scab. In some cases, it bleeds or becomes flat and resembles a scar.
This type of cancer is more common among fair-skinned people with an extensive history of sun exposure. It usually develops on the head and neck. The tumour enlarges very slowly that sometimes it goes unnoticed as new growths. Cancer rarely spreads to other parts of the body. Instead, it invades and destroys surrounding tissues.
While you can identify basal cell carcinoma by sight, doctors usually conduct a biopsy. They may remove cancer directly or provide you with chemotherapy drugs and advise you to go through occasional radiation therapy.
For the record, there are several types of basal cell carcinomas. The nodular type typically begins as small, shiny, firm, almost clear to pink in colour, raised growth. After some time, when it breaks, visible dilated blood vessels may appear on the surface, a scab may form in the centre, and may heal. This will lead a person to falsely think that it’s more of a sore than cancer.
Other types of basal cell carcinoma vary greatly in appearance. Take, for example, the morphea form type appears as thicker flesh-coloured patches that somewhat look like scars. The superficial type, on the other hand, appears as flat thin red or pink patches.
Basal cell carcinoma is often caused by sun exposure, which is why people can prevent this cancer by seeking shade, minimising outdoor activities from 10 AM to 4 PM, and avoiding sunbathing in tanning beds. Wearing protective clothing (e.g. long-sleeved shirts, pants, and broad-brimmed hats) and applying sunscreen can also help.
In case your skin experiences change that lasts for more than a couple of weeks, talk to your doctor for an evaluation.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common cancer, begins in the main structural cells of the epidermis – the squamous cells. Typically, it is thick, its growth appears on the skin, and it does not heal. It develops in areas with minimal (mouth) and maximal (skin) sun exposure.
Fair-skinned people are more susceptible to this type of cancer than dark-skinned people. In addition, squamous cell carcinoma is more likely to develop in damaged skin than normal. Some of these damages include precancerous skin growths, chronic sores on the skin or in the mucus membranes, scarred skin, and precancerous skin growths in the mouth.
Doctors conduct a biopsy to diagnose cancer. Its treatment options include surgery, application of chemotherapy drugs to the skin, and radiation therapy. But if cancer has spread throughout the body, it could be fatal.
Squamous cell carcinoma appears to be thick, scaly, and irregular, but it can have various appearances. It usually begins as a red area with a scaly, crusted surface. Then it becomes raised and firm as it grows, sometimes with a wart-like surface. In due course, it becomes an open sore and grows into the underlying tissue. A doctor may be suspicious of any of these sores on sun-exposed surfaces that do not heal.
People can help prevent squamous cell carcinoma by avoiding the sun, specifically minimising outdoor activities, wearing protective clothing, and practising precautionary measures.
Melanoma, the third main type of skin cancer, begins in the pigment-producing cells of the skin; it starts on normal skins or in existing moles. It appears to be flat or raised brown patches of skin with spots of various colour or firm black or grey lumps and may be irregular.
Just like the preceding types of skin cancer, doctors do a biopsy to diagnose melanoma. It has to be removed. If it spreads over other parts of the body before it has been removed, the patient must take chemotherapy drugs and go through radiation therapy. However, the treatment is somehow complicated.
Melanoma develops on normal skin as a new, small, pigmented growth, usually on sun-exposed areas. It may also occur around and inside the eyes, in the mouth, in the brain, in the nail beds, and on the genitals and rectal areas. Other types of melanoma forms in a preexisting mole.
This type of cancer readily spreads to distant parts of the body, where it continues to grow and destroy tissue.
You can prevent having melanoma by avoiding the sun. While experts do not have enough evidence to prove whether this measure minimises the chance of people developing or dying of melanoma, this measure, however, reduces the risk of developing other skin cancers.
If you have had a melanoma, you are at risk of developing other melanomas. That’s why you need to have a regular skin cancer check . If you have plenty of moles, you should have a total body skin examination at least once a year.
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