Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. Skin cancer is easier to cure than other types of organ cancers because it is an easy tumour to spot and diagnose (unlike malignancies of the internal organs), but the success of the treatment is mainly determined by early diagnosis and the right treatment method.
- Basalioma (synonyms: basal cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma)
- Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin
A tumour that develops from basal epithelial cells and is most commonly known as a basalioma. Basal cell carcinoma accounts for about 70% of all skin cancers. This tumour is made up of abnormal cells in the basal layer of the epidermis (the outer layer of the skin). The good news is that basalioma never metastasises to other internal organs. Instead, the tumour grows invasively into adjacent tissues and structures, thus damaging nearby organs (if basal cell carcinoma is not diagnosed and treated in time).
A rarer form (about 20% of all skin cancers) is squamous cell cancer, which consists of abnormal cells called keratinocytes. These cells are also part of the epidermal layer, but are located higher than the basal cells, which are altered to form a basalioma.
The third and rarest form is melanoma. Melanoma is the most dangerous skin disease and the most malignant form of skin cancer, accounting for about 10% of skin cancers. Melanoma consists of malignantly altered pigmented skin cells called melanocytes. The later the diagnosis is made, the worse the prognosis for survival. Melanoma is the most aggressive form of skin cancer, so the best treatment results are achieved when the disease is detected early.
Skin cancer is most common in older people, and women are more likely to develop it than men or children. Skin cancer can be distinguished by certain specific symptoms of a skin lesion. The symptoms of skin cancer are different depending on the type of skin cancer (and therefore the cells that make it up).
What are the main symptoms of skin cancer?
The first signs of skin cancer are spots or nodules on the skin, which start to grow in size, shape and colour over time. It is when you notice the first symptoms, when the lesion grows, changes and becomes irregular in shape, colour, asymmetrical, itchy and painful, that you should be alarmed and consult a specialist for diagnosis and treatment.
The main symptoms of skin cancer are:
- An ulcerated skin nodule or knot;
- a sore with a yellowish scab;
- a skin nodule with a roller;
- a cartilage-hard skin nodule;
- skin roughness;
- enlarged adjacent (regional) lymph nodes;
- infected ulcer – a wound that does not heal for a long time, which may become bloody, occasionally suppurating and, over time, enlarged.
Other important signs of skin cancer:
- Irregular edges of the mole, especially if the colour of the mole is also uneven (i.e. there is a combination of 3 colours in the mole), uneven surface relief
- Long-lasting non-healing ulcer
- Bleeding, itchy mole
- Growing mole
- A mole that changes its colour, shape, surface relief
It is important to note that skin cancer may not necessarily occur on the areas of the body that have received the most UV radiation from the sun. Sometimes tumours also appear on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet and other areas of the body that are usually covered by clothing. In addition, skin cancer can develop from previously healthy-looking skin, not necessarily just from a mole.
Early detection of the disease is helped by patients self-examining their moles once a month. It is also important to look at areas such as the palms, soles, armpits, behind the ear and other harder to see areas of the body (you can ask your family to help). In addition, you should pay attention to both existing moles (whether they are changing) and new skin growths. And if you notice any skin lesion, however suspicious, do not hesitate to consult a medical specialist.
What is the treatment for skin cancer?
The treatment of skin cancer and the ways and options available depend on the following factors:
- the type of skin cancer;
- the stage of the skin cancer;
- the side effects of a particular treatment method;
- the patient’s medical condition, age;
- the size, shape and location of the tumour.
The main treatment for skin cancer is surgery, where the tumour is removed within the confines of healthy tissue. Surgical treatment is usually performed under local anaesthesia. The tumour is removed surgically, the wound is sutured and a bandage is applied. The removed mole is immediately sent for histological examination to evaluate the cells that make up the mole under a microscope. Regular dressings are required after surgery. The stitches are usually removed 10 to 12 days after surgery. The histological examination of the mole is completed in about the same time. Further treatment and follow-up of the patient is discussed individually with the patient depending on the results of the histological examination. Further treatment and follow-up tactics are then decided as required, e.g.:
- Regular follow-up visits to the doctor to monitor for recurrence of the lesion or the appearance of new malignant lesions;
- General and specific blood tests;
- Instrumental investigations (e.g. chest X-ray, ultrasound of internal organs and other investigations according to the specific situation).
Laser treatment of skin cancer
An alternative treatment for skin cancer is laser treatment or photodynamic therapy. In laser treatment, a narrow, high-intensity beam of light eliminates pre-cancerous formations in the outer layer of the skin. In rare cases, skin cancer is treated with cryotherapy, where small and superficial skin tumours are removed by freezing. Chemotherapy may be used in the case of disseminated melanoma, i.e. cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes or other internal organs. This is preceded by a detailed examination, specific laboratory blood tests and imaging (instrumental) tests to assess the spread of the tumour (metastases).
Signs of skin cancer
The first signs are very deceptive and depend on the type and stage of cancer. The first thing to look for and note are changes in the skin. Very often, skin cancers have similar symptoms:
- A wound or spot on the skin that does not heal for up to four weeks;
- a pimple or wound on the skin (usually itchy, painful, sometimes scabbed over or even bleeding for more than four weeks);
- ulcerated areas of skin that appear for an unknown reason and do not heal for more than four weeks.
The main cause of skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun and a person’s particular pigment type. It is also the use of sunbeds and the use of chemicals in industry.
If you notice the first signs, or at least one of them, when:
- the skin lesion grows larger;
- the skin lesion changes and becomes irregular in shape;
- the skin lesion changes colour;
- the skin lesion becomes asymmetrical;
- the skin lesion becomes itchy and painful.
- It is worthwhile to be concerned and to seek professional help for diagnosis and treatment, as only a properly prescribed treatment can prevent further progression of the disease.
- In our clinic, doctors carry out important diagnostic tests for skin cancer:
- dermatoscopic examination;
- siascopic examination;
- skin biopsy;
- histological examination;
- cytology and other tests.
So, if you notice that the lesion is growing, changing, irregular in shape, colour, asymmetrical, itchy, painful, bleeding and not healing for a long period of time, you should consult a specialist who will carry out the necessary tests and diagnostics and prescribe the most effective treatment.
Skin cancer prevention
In most cases, skin cancer is easier to prevent than to treat. Here are some recommendations to help protect your skin from the harmful effects of UV rays and reduce your chances of developing skin cancer.
Stay in the shade. The sun is most active between 10am and 2pm, so avoid going outside during this time. Remember: if your shadow is shorter than your height, you need to go into the shade.
Appropriate clothing: long-sleeved shirt and trousers made of light fabric, wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses.
Sunscreen: broad-spectrum, water-resistant, SPF 30 (or even better SPF 50).
- Apply a sufficient amount of sunscreen. Research shows that people tend to apply too little sunscreen. For adults, a sufficient amount of sunscreen is about 30 ml (2 tablespoons).
- Apply sunscreen every time you go outdoors, even on a cloudy day.
- All areas of the body exposed to the sun should be covered with sunscreen.
- Broad-spectrum sunscreens protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
- The cream should be adapted to the type of skin: gel products for oily skin types and lotions for dry skin types.
- Reapply the cream every 2 hours, after bathing or after sweating.
Avoid sunburn. Be careful around bodies of water, sand and snowy environments. These environments reflect the sun’s harmful rays and increase the chance of sunburn.
Do not use sunbeds.
If you want tanned skin, use self-tanning products instead.
Have your skin examined regularly, at least once a month. If you notice any suspicious lesions, do not hesitate to consult a dermatologist.
Even if you have no complaints, a preventive check-up by a dermatologist is recommended once a year.
A tan indicates that the skin is already damaged. Every time you are exposed to natural sunlight or sunbathe in a solarium, you are damaging your skin even more. As the damage accumulates, the skin ages faster and the chances of skin cancer increase.
You can read more about sunscreens in the sections “Sun protection” and “How to apply sunscreen correctly”.
The Laser Centre provides high quality specific services, with the best dermatologists and PhDs on staff, so we will provide you with quality services and prescribe the most appropriate and effective treatment.
If you have any questions or concerns, you can call +370 659 57933, +370 659 57976.