The sooner your skin cancer is detected and treated, the greater your chance for recovery is. Oftentimes, skin cancer is very preventable if you take precautions and educate yourself on the dos and don’ts of sun exposure.
It is important to maintain a schedule of yearly check-ups in order to help prevent illness. The Medical Center of Aurora is a leader in healthcare. Click here to make an appointment with a skilled primary care physician at The Medical Center of Aurora.
Perform a full-body self-exam each month to become familiar with your skin and to identify any changes that could signal skin cancer. You can download a body mole map from the American Academy of Dermatology to learn how to examine your skin and what to look for. If you see anything unusual — a mole or growth that is growing, unusual, bleeding or not like the others — see a dermatologist.
Three common skin cancer types
- Basal cell carcinoma is a slow-growing cancer in the layer just underneath the outer layer of the skin (epidermis) where the basal cells are located. Basal cell carcinoma seldom spreads to other parts of the body.
- Squamous cell carcinoma is more rare than basal cell cancer and lives in the epidermis. It spreads more often than basal cell carcinoma.
- Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer and occurs when melanocytes, the pigment cells in the lower part of the epidermis, become malignant, meaning that they start dividing uncontrollably. If it spreads to the lymph nodes, it may also reach other parts of the body, such as the liver, lungs or brain. In such cases, the disease is called metastatic melanoma.
If you’ve been diagnosed with skin cancer, your doctor will most likely remove the tumor and some of the surrounding tissue via surgery (excision) or a special procedure called Mohs micrographic surgery. If you have melanoma, your doctor may perform a sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) to help determine the stage.
Then, depending on the type of cancer, its stage, and other factors, your doctor may recommend additional treatment. This can include:
- Radiation therapy, using X-rays that kill the cancer cells (and some normal cells)
- Chemotherapy, using drugs to kill or slow down the cancer cell growth
- Photodynamic therapy (PDT), using a drug and type of laser light to kill cancer cells
- Biologic therapy, which boosts your body’s own ability to fight cancer
- Lymphadenectomy, which surgically removes lymph nodes
- Immunotherapy, which helps the patient’s immune system fight the cancer
- Targeted therapy, using drugs that can shrink the cancer
- Adoptive T-cell therapy, using T-cells from the patient to fight the cancer
- Clinical trial, depending on the type of skin cancer you have, you may be eligible for a type of treatment that is still being tested
If you have been diagnosed with skin cancer, follow your doctor’s recommendations for regular check-ups. This will help ensure that any new cases of skin cancer, or a recurrence of one that has been treated, is caught early enough.