Skin Cancer

  • Overview

  • Symptoms

  • Diagnosis

  • Treatment

Overview

The main types of skin cancer are: Basal Cell Carcinoma, Melanoma, Merkel Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Most skin cancers arise in parts of the skin more exposed to the sun.

Early Symptoms

  • Basal Cell Carcinoma: The first signs are unusual growth on the skin or a waxy lump. There can also be a smooth growth, which may be pale or shiny with a dent or a dimple in it. Other signs include a discoloured flat spot on the skin, skin irritation or a sore that is bleeding or oozing.
  • Melanoma: Melanomas can be of the skin or eye. Signs of skin melanoma are unusual moles or marks on the skin. Eye melanoma is suspected when your eyes change in appearance or your vision is affected. Eye melanoma is rare and can often be misdiagnosed.
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma: An area of the skin that has thickened, become scaly, rough or wartlike. Other signs are a patch of skin that bleeds when scratched or scraped, a sore that does not heal or a sore with raised edges and crusty surface.

Diagnosis

All types of skin cancer have a similar diagnostic procedure with few variations depending on the location, stage and progression of the disease.

  • Medical history, in which the doctor will ask you a comprehensive set of questions about your exposure to the sun, personal and family history of skin illnesses
  • Skin examination, including checking for engorged lymph nodes
  • X-rays
  • Diagnostic imaging
  • Biopsy

Treatment

Most skin cancers are not life-threatening and can be cured relatively easily. However, damaged or scarred skin can have its own ramifications and hence treatment options should be chosen with extreme care.

  • Basal Cell Carcinoma: These tumors are removed surgically
  • Melanoma: Treatment options for skin melanoma include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapies, targeted therapy and immunotherapy. For eye melanoma, internal radiation therapy or brachytherapy may be combined with surgery. Chemotherapy may be given if the cancer has metastasised.
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Surgery is performed under local anaesthesia. Radiation therapy can be administered for tumours located in areas difficult to operate on. Where the tumour is not deep, a radiation therapy known as Electronic Skin Surface Brachytherapy (ESSB).