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It is well-known that skin cancer is one of the more common forms of cancers in Australia. Early diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer is essential.
Skin cancer involves the abnormal growths of skin cells that can form anywhere on the body, but most frequently appear on skin that is exposed to the sun. Although most cases of skin cancer can be successfully treated, it is important to keep the skin safe and healthy and understand that prevention is just as important as the cure. Being able to recognise the signs of early skin cancer can save lives.
Types of Skin Cancer
There are three major types of skin cancer that affect associated layers of the skin. These are:
- Squamous cell carcinoma – affects the squamous cells, which are just below the outer surface of the skin and serve as the inner lining. This form of skin cancer is also likely to grow deep below the skin and spread to distant parts of the body.
- Basal cell carcinoma – affects the basal cells, which lay under the squamous cells and produce new skin cells. They account for more than 90% of all skin cancers. Slow growing, this typically appears on the face, ears, neck, scalp, shoulders or back and seldom spread to other parts of the body. They are visible on the outer layer of skin in the form of a reddish patch, shiny bump, open sore, pink growth, or scar-like mark.
- Melanoma – is the most serious and aggressive form of skin cancer and affects the melanocytes, which produce melanin. If not detected early, melanoma may spread to the surrounding lymph glands or other organs.
In addition to these, a pre-cancer condition call Actinic keratosis, or solar keratosis, has the potential to develop into squamous cell carcinoma.
Examining Skin Cancer
While it is always best to consult with us regarding checking if you have skin cancer conditions, the following video provides a helpful way to assist in determining if you need professional assistance:
Treatments for Skin Cancer
Treatment for skin cancer depends on the type, size and location of the tumor. Most treatment options remove the entire growth and are usually effective. Skin cancer removal procedures are usually simple and require only a local anaesthetic. Some of the treatment options for skin cancer include:
- Freezing – also known as cryosurgery, kills tissue by freezing them with liquid nitrogen
- Excision – the abnormal tissue, as well as some surrounding healthy tissue, is cut out of the skin
- Laser therapy – destroys cancerous growths with little damage to surrounding tissue and few side effects
- Moh’s surgery – removes larger skin growths layer by layer until no abnormal cells remain to prevent damage to healthy skin
- Chemotherapy – uses drugs to kill cancer, may be applied through creams or lotions for top layer tumors
Other skin cancer treatment options are also available, including new methods that are currently being studied.
Although most treatment for skin cancer is successful, new tumors can still form. It is important to practice preventive measures and see your doctor on a regular basis. You can also perform self-skin checks to spot any changes as soon as possible.