Skin Cancer: How do I know if I have it?
Basal Cell Carcinoma begins in the Epidermis, which is the outermost layer of the skin. This slow-growing form of Skin Cancer implies abnormal and uncontrolled growth of lesions in the skin’s Basal Cells. It mostly develops in areas exposed to the sun, such as, head and neck. It may develop in other parts of the body as well.
This Cancer mostly develops in middle-aged and older people. However, young people are also vulnerable to this Cancer due to their prolonged exposure to the sun’s radiation.
The primary cause of Basal Cell Carcinoma is the Ultraviolet Radiation from the sun. Hence, most of the times, the Cancer develops on the sun-exposed areas of the body, such as, head and neck. Light Colored Skin is also prone to this form of Skin Cancer. Other contributing factors include Exposure to Radiation, Contact with Arsenic, Chronic Inflammatory Skin Conditions, and other complications arising from Burns, Scars, Vaccinations, Infections, and Tattoos. Patients with a family history of Skin Cancer are also at an elevated risk for developing Basal Cell Carcinoma.
Signs & Symptoms
Basal Cell Carcinoma may appear on the skin as following:
- A Persistent and Non-Healing Open Sore
- A Reddish Patch or Irritated Area, with or without Itching
- A Shiny, Pearly, Translucent Bump or Nodule
- A Pink Growth with a round border
- A White, Yellow, or Waxy Scar-like Area with poorly defined areas
The subject matter expert is a Dermatologist.
The symptoms for all skin disorders are mostly similar. Hence, it is extremely essential to carefully evaluate and assess the symptoms of Basal Cell Carcinoma to rule out other benign lesions, such as, Sebaceomas, Intradermal Naevus, Fibrous Papules, Acne Scars, and Hypertrophic Scarring. The doctor will carry out the following Diagnosis:
- History: The doctor will ask for information about the medical history of the patient, such as, when did the mark on the skin first appear, change in its size & appearance, any symptoms of itching or bleeding, family history of Skin Cancer, and past exposure to factors inducing Skin Cancer.
- Physical Examination: The doctor will carefully examine the scarred area and check for Bleeding or Scaling. He may also check other parts of the body for Spots or Moles related to Cancer.
- Tests: The best way to diagnose Basal Cell Carcinoma is to conduct a Skin Biopsy. This involves taking a sample of the skin and examining it under a Microscope to look for Cancer Cells. There are different ways of conducting Skin Biopsy, such as, Shave Biopsy, Punch Biopsy, Incisional Biopsy, and Excisional Biopsy. The choice of Biopsy will depend on factors, such as, type of Cancer, size of the affected area, and many more.
Treatment Modalities Available for Management of the Disorder
There are different types of treatment modalities available for management of Basal Cell Carcinoma. The choice of treatment depends upon several factors, such as, size of Cancer, the patient’s age, overall health, and risk of Scarring.
- Curettage and Desiccation: This procedure involves scraping off the cancerous growth with the help of a sharp and ring-shaped instrument known as Curette. An electric current controls the bleeding and destroys the residual Cancer Cells
- Surgical Excision: This involves cutting out of the Tumor with the help of a scalpel, followed by closing of the surgical site with stitches.
- Cryosurgery: In this procedure, doctors apply liquid nitrogen on the cancerous growth to freeze and kill the Cancer Cells
- Radiation Therapy: This involves use of X-Ray beams directed at the Tumor to destroy the Cancer Cells
- Mohs Micrographic Surgery: This outpatient procedure involves cutting of the Tumor along with a thin layer of tissue around it. The surgeon repeats the process until the last layer is Tumor-Free.
Basal Cell Carcinoma seldom spreads to other parts of the body. However, if left untreated, it may grow into the surrounding areas, such as, the nearby tissue and bones. Tumors developed around the Nose, Eyes, and Ears are troublesome.
Basal Cell Carcinoma has high chances of recurrence. It may develop on the previously treated area or some other area on the body. It is essential for the patient to regularly visit the Dermatologist for routine check ups. It is also advisable for the patient to carry out self-examination of the treated area as well as other parts of the body. It is of paramount importance for the patient to protect himself/herself from sun’s Ultraviolet Radiation.
Prevention of the Disorder from Happening or Recurring
One should follow the below mentioned preventive measures to protect oneself from occurrence/recurrence of Basal Cell Carcinoma:
- Avoid unprotected exposure to sun’s Ultraviolet Radiation
- Avoid sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Use water-resistant sun screen with UVA and UVB protection
- Wear broad-rimmed hat and protective clothing while outdoors
- Regularly examine the skin for unnatural growth or changes
- Seek medical help if any suspicious-looking lesion occurs
Risk to other Family Members
Basal Cell Carcinoma is a Hereditary Disease, and hence imposes risk to the next generation.
Support and Help given by the Caregiver
Patient suffering from Basal Cell Carcinoma may feel stressed and overwhelmed. Under such circumstances, caregivers should offer moral support to the patient and motivate him/her to lead a normal life. Once treated, the patient still lives with the fear of recurrence of the Cancer. It is extremely essential to carry out self-examination of all parts of the body. Caregivers may help the patient by checking for new lesions in the body parts which are difficult to view by the patient himself.