Recognizing Skin Cancer and Available Treatments
Melanoma - Basal Cell - Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer, affecting 800,000 Americans each year. Warning signs and photos.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), the second most common skin cancer after basal cell carcinoma, afflicts more than 200,000 Americans each year. Warning signs and photos
Over 53,000 cases of Melanoma (the most lethal type of skin cancer) are reported to the Skin Cancer Foundation every year.
|Types of Skin Cancer:
|Actinic Keratoses, frequently precursors of squamous cell carcinoma, can most often be simply and successfully resolved by PhotoDynamic Therapy. Dr. Zaks can determine if your skin condition is of concern medically or is only a cosmetic issue.
Skin Cancer Foundation Resources
What to Look For
Skin Cancer Facts
Malignant melanomas are usually small brown-black or larger multicolored patches, plaques or nodules with irregular outline. They may crust on the surface or bleed. Many of them may arise in pre-existing moles.
Malignant Melanomas begin in the melanocytes, the pigment-making cells of the body. There are four types of melanoma, each with it's own prognosis and treatment options. Dr. Zaks performs skin cancer screenings. He then biopsies suspicious moles and lesions. Positive cases are referred to a carefully selected and properly experienced MOHS surgeon.
Learn about the various forms of melanoma through the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Cause of Skin Cancer
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is considered to be the main cause of skin cancer. Artificial sources of UV radiation, such as sunlamps and tanning booths, can also cause skin cancer.
The risk of developing skin cancer is affected by where a person lives. People who live in areas that get high levels of UV radiation from the sun are more likely to get skin cancer. Southern Californians have high level exposure meaning you need to be especially on the watch for unusual changes in your skin.
Of course, some changes in your skin my be simply sun damage, but any time you are unsure, it's wise to visit a dermatologist. Everyone should schedule annual screenings and maintain a skin chart.
Read Dr. Zaks' article about Skin Cancer
Treating Skin Cancer
Reprinted from the National Cancer Institute.
Treatment for skin cancer usually involves some type of surgery. In some cases, doctors suggest radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Sometimes a combination of these methods is used.
Many skin cancers can be cut from the skin quickly and easily. In fact, the cancer is sometimes completely removed at the time of the biopsy, and no further treatment is needed.
Curettage and Electrodesiccation
The Vbeam laser and IPL are Dr. Zaks' treatments of choice. Vbeam is a quick, efficient procedure with minimal discomfort. The laser causes the small vessels to heat up to a high enough temperature to cause coagulation. They then close off, shrink and eventually are absorbed by the body and disappear. To protect the skin while still allowing the laser light to penetrate to the "target" vessels, the Vbeam incorporates a special cooling device.
Extreme cold may be used to treat precancerous skin conditions, such as actinic keratosis, as well as certain small skin cancers. In cryosurgery, liquid nitrogen is applied to the growth to freeze and kill the abnormal cells. After the area thaws, the dead tissue falls off. More than one freezing may be needed to remove the growth completely. Cryosurgery usually does not hurt, but patients may have pain and swelling after the area thaws. A white scar may form in the treated area.
Laser therapy uses a narrow beam of light to remove or destroy cancer cells. This approach is sometimes used for cancers that involve only the outer layer of skin.
Sometimes, especially when a large cancer is removed, a skin graft is needed to close the wound and reduce the amount of scarring. For this procedure, the doctor takes a piece of healthy skin from another part of the body to replace the skin that was removed.
Skin cancer responds well to radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy), which uses high-energy rays to damage cancer cells and stop them from growing. Doctors often use this treatment for cancers that occur in areas that are hard to treat with surgery. For example, radiation therapy might be used for cancers of the eyelid, the tip of the nose, or the ear. Several treatments may be needed to destroy all of the cancer cells. Radiation therapy may cause a rash or make the skin in the area dry or red. Changes in skin color and/or texture may develop after the treatment is over and may become more noticeable many years later.
Topical chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs in a cream or lotion applied to the skin. Actinic keratosis can be treated effectively with the anticancer drug fluorouracil (also called 5-FU). This treatment is also useful for cancers limited to the top layer of skin. The 5-FU is applied daily for several weeks. Intense inflammation is common during treatment, but scars usually do not occur.