FACTS ABOUT SKIN CANCER
The skin is the body’s largest organ. Its job is to protect internal organs against damage, heat and infection. The skin is also the most exposed organ to sunlight and other forms of harmful ultraviolet rays.
According to the American Cancer Society, more than one million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancers will be diagnosed in the United States this year. These cancers can usually be cured. In addition, 73,870 cases of melanoma will be diagnosed. Skin cancer is 10 times more common among Caucasians than African-Americans.
Learn more about Skin Cancer:
- Types Of Skin Cancer
- Signs and Symptoms
- Treating Skin Cancer
- Understanding Radiation Therapy
- Caring for Yourself During Treatment
- Skin Cancer Resources
Types Of Skin Cancer
There are four main types of skin cancer that can be diagnosed in patients. While some are more treatable and even curable compared to others, they all can be dangerous if not treated. The types of cancer include: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma and merkel cell carcinoma.
The most common form of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma, which is diagnosed in 90% of cases. Generally, it is the least harmful form of cancer since it doesn’t spread to the rest of the body. Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and can quickly spread to other parts of the body if it’s not caught early. It’s critical that you visit your dermatologist for a biopsy if you notice an abnormalities in your skin, which we outline below.
Signs and symptoms of skin cancer
The four types of skin cancer display different symptoms on the body. Characteristics of each type of tumors include the following:
- Basal Cell Carcinoma - this type of cancer typically looks like a pale patch of skin or clear, smooth bump on the skin. As the cancer gets to later stages, it may start bleeding if irritated, or show signs of dryness in the patch of skin.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma - this type of skin cancer manifests as a rough feeling bump on the skin, and is not translucent or smooth like basal cell carcinoma. It is also possible for it to appear as a dry, scaly patch of skin that has a reddish coloration. Over time as the cancer progresses, the bump or rash may continue to grow.
- Melanoma - this type of cancer involves changes in things like moles, blemishes, and other markings on the skin. It is subtle and sometimes difficult to spot, but keeping an eye out for any changes in size, shape, or color of moles are key for catching melanoma.
- Merkel Cell Carcinoma - manifests as a bluish-red spot on your face, neck, or head that is slightly raised like a bump. These typically grow very rapidly.
If you have any questions about the signs and symptoms of these various types of skin cancer, or think you may have noticed an early sign of skin cancer, call your doctor to schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
How Skin Cancer Can be Treated
If caught in an early stage, many cases of skin cancer can be cured with proper treatment. There are many different types of treatment available, but the best treatment depends on the individual patient. Before cancer treatment, the doctors will evaluate the patient’s overall health, stage of cancer, and other factors to determine what treatment method would best meet their needs.
RADIATION THERAPY FOR SKIN CANCER
A common treatment method for skin cancer patients is radiation therapy, which uses targeted radiation to target the cancer cells and eliminate them. Radiation therapy damages the cancer cells and prevents them from multiplying further, hindering growth and eventually killing them off as they can’t repair themselves. Radiation therapy is provided by a radiation oncologist, who specializes in radiation therapy treatment for cancer patients. The radiation is typically delivered using an external beam that can target the cancer cells for precise treatment. Successful radiation treatment can also cure certain cases of skin cancer.
Brachytherapy is a type of radiation therapy that utilizes a different delivery method instead of a radiation beam. Using a series of small tubes that are surgically inserted around the tumor, the doctor put small beads that emit radiation into the tubes, providing more direct radiation contact to the cancerous cells. The dosage level for brachytherapy can vary, depending on the patient’s treatment needs.
CARING FOR YOURSELF DURING TREATMENT
- Get plenty of rest during treatment.
- Follow your doctor’s orders. Ask if you are unsure about anything or if you have questions about your treatments and side effects.
- Tell your doctor about any medications or vitamins you are taking, to make sure if they’re safe to use during radiation therapy.
- Eat a balanced diet. If food tastes funny or you’re having trouble eating, tell your doctor or dietician. They will work with you to help you make changes in your diet.
- Keep very well hydrated by drinking eight, 8 oz, glasses of fluid daily. Gelatin, broth, sherbet, etc. are all considered to be part of your fluid intake.
- Treat the skin exposed to radiation with special care. Stay out of the sun, avoid hot or cold packs, and only use lotions and ointments after checking with your doctor or nurse. When cleaning the area, use only water and a mild soap.
- Battling cancer is tough. Don’t be afraid to ask friends, family, support groups and your radiation oncology team for help.
CONTACT US FOR MORE INFORMATION
If you have any questions about skin cancer, skin cancer treatment, or radiation therapy, just contact us at Northeastern Radiation Oncology Center. Located in Elko, NV, we are your local cancer treatment center that you can rely on when you or your family need reliable, professional radiation cancer treatment close to home. We look forward to helping you work toward a healthier future.
SKIN CANCER RESOURCES
Melanoma International Foundation
Melanoma Research Foundation
Skin Cancer Foundation
Also see Helpful Links
*Content provided by the American Society for Radiation Oncology, www.rtanswers.org, and the American Cancer Society.