Have you ever been checked for skin cancer? Before you do, it’s important that you understand the various types of skin cancer and their treatment. Please read below for more information.
Australia is one of the countries with the highest rate of skin cancers in the world. It is also the most diagnosed cancer in Australia with almost 770,000 new cases of SCC and BCC treated each year.
Two in three Australians are estimated to get some form of skin cancer before reaching the age of 70. One of the reasons cited for the high rate of skin cancer in Australia is the large proportion of fair-skinned people that live there.
Lighter skin contains less melanin which is the body’s natural protection from UV radiation, one of the major causes of skin cancer. Most types of skin cancer can be treated successfully if diagnosed and treated early.
This is where you need to seek advice from a trusted and reputable dermatologist.
It is a disease that develops when the cells of the skin are damaged, causing abnormal and accelerated cell growth. The main cause of skin cell damage is overexposure to UV (ultraviolet) radiation from the sun.
When skin cell damage builds up the body is less able to repair the damage, increasing the risk of developing skin cancer. Using sun protection can prevent UV damage and reduce the risk of skin cancer at any age.
Skin cancer generally appears as unusual spots that are different from the surrounding skin. It often forms on an existing spot that has undergone changes in colour, shape or size.
There are three main types of skin cancer, each named after the specific skin cells in which the carcinomas (another word for cancer) develop:
1. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer but also the least dangerous. It usually occurs on the neck, head or upper torso of the body and may appear as a dry scaly area or a lump.
The colour can be red, pearly or pale. It grows slowly and while it develops it may become ulcerated, appearing like a sore that will not heal properly.
2. Squamous cell carcinoma appears as a red, scaly or thickened area that may ulcerate, crust or bleed easily as it grows. It most often occurs on skin that has been overexposed to the sun and develops over several months.
If not treated it can spread and affect other parts of the body.
3. Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and can also appear on areas of the skin that has not been exposed to the sun. This type of cancer grows very quickly and can become life-threatening in as little as a few weeks.
If left untreated it may spread to other parts of the body. It usually appears as a flat spot with a smudged, uneven, blotchy outline. The area may range in colour from black to brown, blue to red, and even grey.
Nodular melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer that appears different from other types of melanomas.
It has a raised appearance from the start with even colouring – usually red or pink with some being brown or black. It grows very quickly and needs to be treated as soon as possible.
In order to reduce the severity of skin cancer, it is important to detect any irregularities by regularly check all areas of the skin, (not only sun-exposed areas) for any new and unusual spots and changes in the shape, size, and colour of existing spots.
Skin cancer can be diagnosed by physical examination and biopsy.
A biopsy is a quick and simple procedure where a small sample of skin is removed from the suspected cancer site by a doctor or dermatologist and sent to a laboratory for analysis.
If the results are positive your doctor will discuss a treatment plan with you.
Skin cancers are usually removed by some method and in some advanced cases, the surrounding tissue is also removed to ensure that all affected cells have been targeted and removed.
The treatment plan will depend on the type and size of the cancer, where it is situated, and whether it has spread to other parts of the body. Types of treatment may include:
In some cases, palliative care may be recommended to help alleviate the symptoms of cancer and improve a patient’s quality of life.
Palliative treatment can slow the spread of cancer, relieve pain, and help manage symptoms with treatments like chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and drug therapies.
If detected early, most skin cancers can be successfully treated.
Your doctor cannot predict the exact course the disease will take but may be able to give you a probable prognosis of the outcome when different factors have been taken into consideration.
The best way to prevent skin cancer is to use sun protection especially in the middle of the day when UV levels are intense and to avoid exposing the skin to the sun as much as possible.
Searching for and finding a trustworthy dermatologist in Melbourne isn’t easy. However, if you need to seek advice from a trusted and experienced dermatologist, look no further than Brighton Dermatology.
We are able to deal with a large range of skin diseases and disorders and help you to restore your health and confidence. Please call us today for a consultation on (03) 9592 7474 or contact us via our website.
Understanding Skin Cancer
A Cancer Council booklet to help you understand more about common skin cancers.
Australasian College of Dermatologists
A great source of information about moles, melanoma and skin cancer, including treatment and other skin disorders.