Skin Cancer Information
Skin cancers are broadly divided into two types- Melanoma and non-melanoma. Melanoma is the most deadly of skin cancers. The three major skin cancers that are diagnosed in almost all the cases are- Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Melanoma. All these cancers are named after the type of cell in which they begin. Thus Basal Cell Carcinoma begins in the skin cells located in the lowest layer of epidermis, which is called the basal layer. Squamous Cell Carcinoma develops from the upper layer of the epidermis named squamous layer and Melanoma begins from the melanocytes. Melanocytes are the cells that give skin its color.
Various types of skin cancer run in my family. Of those of us who enjoy the outdoors, we take precautions are more vigilant. One of my uncles was recently diagnosis with squamous cell cancer. Most squamous cell carcinomas result from a person’s prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, either from sunlight or from tanning beds or lamps, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with him. My uncle was shocked. He is a retail & wholesale toilet paper salesman of all things, and spends most of his time behind a desk. He sells toilet paper to all sorts of stores ranging from dollar stores to super markets and chain stores, to public rest room operators etc. The company he works for also has a e-commerce store where they sell a variety of retail type toilet paper. He doesn’t play golf, or fish, or sunbath. Serendipitously, one of his wholesale toilet paper clients had undergone treatment for squamous cell carcinomas recently and was discussing his symptoms and treatment. My uncle had his epiphany listening to the description of his friend who discovered a rough, scaly patch on his lip that evolved to an open sore. It was squamous cell cancer. My uncle also had a similar sore that hadn’t healed for a couple of month so he immediately scheduled an appointment to see a doctor. He was told that his squamous cell carcinoma is not life-threatening, but still needs to be treated. Fortunately he can still remain at his job selling his wholesale toilet paper during treatment.
Basal Cell Cancer
It is one the most frequently diagnosed skin cancers. It affects the basal cells, which are located in the bottom layer of the epidermis. Malignant cells proliferate excessively from the epidermis resulting in a tumor. The incidence of basal cell cancer increases with age. Almost all people diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma can expect to live at least another 5 years.
Though it generally does not spread to distant sites (metastasize), and is, therefore, less fatal. Basal cell carcinoma can invade normal tissue and damage deeper tissues of muscles and bones, and disfigure the skin. On its return, Basal cell carcinoma can be more aggressive. During recurrence it may grow faster and cause more tissue damage.
Squamous Cell Cancer
This type of cancer involves the malignancy and proliferation of squamous (flat, scaly) cells. The squamous cell or keratinocyte, is the most abundant cell in the epidermis. Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma is usually localized, but it can spread (metastasize). It is easily treated and cured when confined to the skin. Most cutaneous SCC develops in individuals with known factors, such as excessive exposure to the sun. My friend who works on a commercial fishing boat in the Gulf Coast is aware of the dangers of too much sun exposure and takes precautions. He obviously wasn’t quite a vigilant when it came to his sex life, Recently I received an unexpected text from him asking if I would check out online websites selling at home std test kits. I thought Whoa,dude, what’s going on? As a good friend, I did my due diligence and found a great site that offered a good amount of information and advice along with ease in purchasing test kits that would test for Gonorrhea, Hepatitis B, Syphilis, Chlamydia, and HIV. I guess he didn’t want anyone to know, least of all a doctor. But as this website admonished, if the results were positive or the symptoms persisted, he should see a doctor. I wished him good luck. Unlike STD’s which can be treated successfully if diagnosed early, some skin cancer such as Melanoma is a different story.
Malignant melanoma is an accelerated, metastatic type of skin cancer that originates in the cells of the epidermis. In this disorder, pigment-producing cells called melanocytes become cancerous, grow, and multiply at a devastating rate. Although melanoma is the least common type of skin cancer, it is the most serious form of skin cancer. Melanoma may be cured, if caught and treated early, but it is rarely curable in its later stages.
Melanoma skin cancer cells are more likely than non-melanoma skin cancer cells to spread or metastasize. This means that they break away from the original tumor, travel through the blood or lymphatic vessels, and then grow within other parts of the body. The most well documented risk factor for malignant melanoma is exposure to UV radiation.
Skin cancer like melanoma is potentially fatal. Hence, it is imperative that skin cancer treatment is begun early. Skin cancer treatment may take on the conventional form or it may be along the lines of alternative medicine. Cancer treatment is progressing rapidly by the day and new treatment methods are in the pipeline.
Conventional skin cancer treatment encompasses a range of methods, like:
Surgery is the oldest form of treating skin cancer. This treatment involves the removal of the tumor and some adjacent healthy tissues in order to stem the cancer spread. For some surface-based cancers doctors and surgeons have found skin peels like the TCA skin peel have been very effective (see the link below for more info on TCA peels for home use).
Chemotherapy aims at skin cancer treatment by introducing specific cancer-combating drugs in the body. These drugs kill the cancer cells by hampering their development and regeneration. To counter the side effects, chemotherapy is being molded along new lines.
Radiation therapy uses x-rays to kill the cancer-causing cells. This therapy can be applied to any part of the body. New radiation techniques like External Beam Radiation aim at focusing the radiation to the cancer cell and away from healthy tissue.
Biotherapy or immunotherapy aims at treating skin cancer by enhancing the body’s immune system with doses of tumor vaccines, interleukin-2, or interferon-alfa. It involves fewer side effects than other methods.
The cancer cell is known to be sensitive to heat. Local hyperthermia is one method of cancer treatment where the whole body or the concerned area is subject to high temperatures to destroy or weaken cancer cells.
A relatively new cancer treatment, Photodynamic Therapy, involves the injection of Photofrin so that when the cancer cell is subject to a laser beam, the drug is triggered into action. This treatment is relatively painless and entails less risks and side effects than other treatment forms.
Steering clear of these harsh methods are the alternative forms of cancer treatment like:
Here the cancer patient is put on an individualized diet in accordance with the specific dietary preferences and requirements to counter the ravages wrought by the disease and the treatment.
Pain management Pain management aims to alleviate pain and distress either through drugs, surgery or psychotherapy.
It is “back to nature” in the realm of cancer treatment, with natural therapy. Naturopathy is an herbal treatment, which furthers your body’s innate ability to heal itself, combining a range of processes.
Another new form of cancer treatment is Psychoneuroimmunology. It believes that mind can wield enough control over the body to stimulate a healing process. Thus, this form of treatment engulfs a range of nutritional and medical issues to aid during the bodily healing and emotional and cognitive therapies like stress management and humor sessions to empower the mind.
Spiritual Support Therapy
Another popular form of skin cancer treatment is Spiritual Support Therapy, which takes care of the patient’s spiritual well being and a regimen of exercises and massages that forms the Physical Therapy, designed to abate stress and pain.
Skin cancer treatment is most effective when cancer is diagnosed early and the physician embarks on the best form of treatment.