May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and all month long we’re going to discuss this very serious threat to public health. Detecting and diagnosing skin cancer early are the two most important factors in treating skin cancer effectively.
Cancer occurs when cells within the body replicate at a rapid rate and form tumors or lesions. On the skin, cancer appears as a growth or lesion. What triggers cancer to begin forming is not fully understood, but sun damage is the main contributor to the formation of skin cancer. Ultraviolet light in the sun’s rays damages skin and causes melanin to form in higher concentrations. A tan is your skin reacting to sun damage. There are a few different forms of skin cancer, like melanoma and squamous/basal cell carcinoma. These all manifest themselves in different ways, and knowing what to look for is critical to early detection.
Skin cancer might start on your skin, but left unchecked it can spread to your internal organs, making it far more difficult to treat and threatening your life. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer because of how rapidly it spreads. Any type of skin cancer can spread and develop in other parts of the body, but melanoma is known for its unique speed. Melanoma doesn’t usually spread on the surface of the skin, generally keeping to the mole-like lesion it developed as. But the size of your lesion does not determine whether it’s made its way into your body, and depending on where the melanoma is on your body, the less time you have. While melanoma can kill regardless of where it crops up, its proximity to vital internal organs can pose an even larger threat.
Common forms of skin cancer like squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma can spread on the surface of the skin. With some types of skin cancer, you actually might be able to treat the cancer before it’s officially even cancerous. Actinic keratoses are lesions that form as a result of sun damage, and a lot of these develop into squamous cell carcinoma. If you can treat an AK early, you may prevent cancer from ever developing. These lesions often look crusty or yellowed. Often skin is raised, red and tender where these lesions occur, and they can cover more skin with enough time. Cancer that spreads like this is harder to remove, and the surgery needed often can leave behind scars when it’s not removed as soon as it’s detected.
There is no type of cancer that can be treated as easily as skin cancer. In the event of skin cancer, even melanoma, early detection and treatment can put a quick end to your worries. Since many skin cancers don’t require deep surgical excisions, most often the worst lingering effect is a faint scar. If it spreads deeper or over more surface area, that scar can be more visible. Most skin cancer removal treatments can be conducted in your dermatologist’s office without the need for general anesthesia. Preparation and recovery time following Mohs micrographic surgery or a surgical excision don’t require much change to your routine, and often you can go about daily life the next day. If detected early, you can prevent cancer from metastasizing and spreading to other parts of your body, which is usually why skin cancer proves lethal.
With Skin Cancer Awareness Month just starting, it’s a very good idea to practice good self-screening measures. If you find a lesion or abnormal growth, or want a more comprehensive screening, call the doctors you can trust at Northeast Dermatology Associates.
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