Skin Cancer 101
According to abbreviationfinder, skin cancer refers to various, mostly malignant, tumors of the skin. The best-known forms are melanoma ( black skin cancer ) and actinic keratosis, basalioma and spinalioma (light skin cancer). Skin cancer is mostly caused by severe sunburn in a person’s youth. But other skin stresses and carcinogenic substances can also trigger skin cancer.
What is skin cancer?
All malignant tumors that affect the largest human organ, the skin, are called skin cancer. A distinction is made between black and white skin cancer. These two species differ not only in their pigmentation, but also in their shape and location.
There are three types of so-called non-melanoma skin cancer: basalioma, spinalioma and actinic keratosis. Light skin cancer occurs more frequently in older people, mainly on the face. This is often surgically removed; Metastasis formation is significantly less common in non-melanoma skin cancer than in black skin cancer.
The main cause of skin cancer is generally too long or too strong exposure to the sun. Especially if you have often had sunburn as a child , you are susceptible to black skin cancer.
People with light skin and blond or reddish hair are much more likely to develop skin cancer.
Skin cancer can also develop from exposure to carcinogenic sources. This can be asbestos as well as tar or radioactive substances. Skin cancer can also be genetic. Those who have the corresponding systems in their genome are often more at risk.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
The insidious thing about skin cancer is that it remains without specific symptoms for a long time. A warning sign are always very itchy or bleeding birthmarks. In particular, bleeding from a single mark should be clarified immediately by a dermatologist. Possible signs of skin cancer are best recognized in the early stages by regularly and systematically observing the birthmarks themselves.
Here, the ABCDE rule can give the layman a first clue. Asymmetric marks can be suspicious, as can those that are not clearly defined. Taken by themselves, neither characteristic is a clear indication of skin cancer and accordingly there is no reason to panic if something is noticed during self-observation. However, fuzzy, very asymmetrical birthmarks should be presented to a specialist as soon as possible.
The same applies to unclear coloring. Most times have an even shade. A first sign of skin cancer in many patients is that the mark has changed color. The diameter can also give clues.
Moles that are larger than five millimeters should be checked regularly, as well as those that suddenly appear larger. The aspect of grandeur can also be a symptom of cancer. Most healthy marks are even and not raised in the skin. If a mark rises suddenly, this can be a sign of a malignant change.
Untreated black skin cancer is almost always fatal. Therefore, a dermatologist should always be consulted immediately in the case of skin disorders and strange birthmarks or moles. But even if there are no abnormalities, it is advisable to have your skin checked for possible tumors once a year.
The earlier skin cancer is detected, the higher the chances of recovery. If the skin cancer was detected late, it is quite likely that metastases have already formed throughout the body. Then the chance of surviving skin cancer is unfortunately very small.
Various complications can occur as part of skin cancer. First, there is a risk that the cancer will form metastases. If the tumors spread to the internal organs, serious secondary diseases and functional failures can occur that have to be treated independently. The complications involved depend on the stage of the cancer.
In the second stage, the lymph nodes are affected, usually associated with exhaustion, weight loss and other symptoms. Stage 3 skin cancer affects the liver, kidneys, lungs and brain, causing nausea, vomiting, gait disturbances and fatigue, among other symptoms. In the further course, the disease usually leads to a functional failure of the affected organs and ultimately to the death of the patient. Complications can also arise in the treatment of skin cancer.
During an operation, there is a risk that surrounding structures will be damaged. Depending on the location of the finding, this can result in significant functional limitations and cosmetic problems. If nerves are injured, numbness and signs of paralysis can occur. Bleeding, bruising, wound healing disorders and excessive scarring can also occur. The prescribed drugs and alternative therapy methods can have other side effects and physical and psychological problems.
When should you go to the doctor?
Going to a specialist early on improves the chances of a cure for skin cancer considerably. In this respect, every skin area that appears changed should be shown to a dermatologist very promptly. Changes that make a trip to the dermatologist necessary, for example, increase in size or color change of individual birthmarks. Newly added moles that are visually different from others should be presented to a specialist if there is the slightest doubt.
Basically, a monthly self-check of the skin should take place. Here one should pay attention to size, shape, elevation and aspects such as itching of birthmarks. Since the earliest possible detection of a melanoma is of great importance in terms of removal and prospects of healing, any change that appears conspicuous and causes concern should be shown to the dermatologist quickly.
Within a few minutes, he can make an initial assessment as to whether further examinations are indicated or whether the phenomenon is harmless. Depending on the part of the body, a melanoma can grow undetected for a long time. Symptoms such as injuries that do not heal well, bleeding from birthmarks and painful areas of skin that look different often only appear in an advanced stage of skin cancer. Bleeding from birthmarks in particular should be examined immediately by a specialist.
Treatment & Therapy
The diagnosis of skin cancer is usually made quickly and clearly by a dermatologist, as this is already present when the affected skin areas are examined. An additional tissue removal provides additional security, but is not necessary in most cases. The treatment of skin cancer depends on the stage at which the disease is.
Usually, the doctor will surgically remove the affected area of skin. Nowadays, this is usually done under local anesthesia. However, if the cancer is more advanced, radiotherapy or chemotherapy is used. Immunotherapy has also achieved good results against this disease. The chances of recovery from so-called black skin cancer are better the earlier it is detected.
After the melanomas have been removed, regular follow-up checks are essential. However, if metastases have already formed in the advanced stage, the chances of survival are usually low. White or light skin cancer usually has better chances of recovery than black skin cancer.
Outlook & Forecast
The prognosis of skin cancer depends on the progression of the disease and the time at which treatment is started. With early detection, skin cancer is completely curable in most cases thanks to medical advances. The further the cancer cells have spread in the organism, the worse the chance of recovery.
If the skin cancer is limited to a local area on the body, the chances of recovery are good. The affected region is removed and subsequent cancer therapy is performed. After successful therapy, the patient should take part in a check-up at regular intervals and protect himself adequately from direct sunlight.
If several areas of skin cancer have already formed on the body, the chances of recovery are greatly reduced. If metastases form in different parts of the body, the prognosis for the patient is poor. If the skin cancer has already spread to the dermis, there is a risk that it will spread throughout the body via the blood and lymphatic vessels.
Despite a cured skin cancer, the disease can break out again in the course of life. In these cases, early detection is also important for survival, since rapid treatment is the only way to ensure a good prognosis if the disease breaks out again.
To prevent skin cancer, avoid staying in the sun for too long. Of course, it is important to always protect yourself adequately – sun creams are available in all pharmacies and drugstores. Small children in particular should be given special protection – a hat is a top priority here.
Visiting solariums has also become more and more popular in recent times, because after all, someone who is brown is considered beautiful. But it is precisely this artificially generated sunlight that is extremely harmful to the body. It is not for nothing that the number of skin cancer cases has increased significantly in recent years. In order to prevent this disease or to detect skin cancer in good time, you should examine your body regularly. People with a large number of liver spots in particular should check them for any changes.
If these liver spots become larger or change their structure, a dermatologist should be consulted as a precaution. Here the so-called ABCDE rule helps a lot (asymmetry, borders, color, diameter, elevation should be considered according to this – in this way harmless birthmarks can be easily distinguished from the dangerous melanomas of black skin cancer).
Careful follow-up care is essential for patients suffering from skin cancer. Even after successful therapy, those affected still have a high risk of recurrence. Since the majority of recurrences occur within the first five years, follow-up examinations take place particularly regularly during this period. The intervals and scope of these examinations are individually dependent on the type and severity of the removed tumor.
In the case of melanoma, follow-up examinations at short intervals are advisable, as metastases often form. For this reason, a close medical check-up (every three to six months) is recommended in the first five years. Follow-up care should be maintained for life.
Some forms of skin cancer have a relatively high tendency to recur. Those affected should have their entire skin regularly dermatologically examined after surgery or alternative therapy. If there is no new tumor formation in the first year after the removal of the tumor, annual follow-up checks are sufficient.
Conscientious aftercare can detect pathological changes in the skin or secondarily affected organs in good time. Regular self-examination is also an important part of aftercare. Those affected should avoid strong sunlight in the future and ensure adequate UV protection.
You can do that yourself
Skin cancer is a serious disease, but treatable if detected early. The physical and mental stress associated with the diagnosis of skin cancer can be reduced by various self-help measures.
Rest and bed rest initially help against the physical strain, always depending on the individual condition of the patient. Psychological stress can be counteracted by therapeutic measures. The doctor will recommend, for example, visiting a self-help group or suggesting physical activity to the person concerned. In particular, measures such as yoga or physiotherapy reduce the stress level without overloading the body during the illness.
Patients with “black” skin cancer may also have to change their diet. Individual nutritional advice from experts can be useful here. In less severe cases, it is sufficient to ensure a healthy and balanced diet with all the necessary vitamins and minerals.
The diet should primarily be supplemented with antioxidant foods containing omega-3 fatty acids. For example, nuts, various types of fish, cauliflower, figs, oranges and linseed oil are said to have an effect that destroys carcinogenic substances and inhibits cancer cells. The measures to be taken in detail should always be discussed with the responsible doctor.