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Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer

What is Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than 1 million cases are diagnosed annually. There are three major types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. The most common types of skin cancer are basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers. These cancers make up the majority of skin cancer cases. They usually form on the head, neck, face, hands, and arms, but can occur in other places as well.

What Are Squamous Cells and What Do They Look Like?

Squamous cell skin cancer usually occurs on parts of the skin that have been exposed to the sun. However, it also may be in places that have not been in the sun. Squamous cells may also occur from actinic keratoses, which are dry, scaly lesions that may be skin-colored, reddish-brown or yellowish-black. Squamous cell cancer sometimes spreads to lymph nodes and organs inside the body.

Squamous cells usually appear as a crusted or scaly area of skin with a red inflamed base that resembles a growing tumor, non-healing ulcer, or crusted-over patch of skin.

What Are Basal Cells and What Do They Look Like?

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common cancer in humans. Basal cell skin cancer grows slowly. It usually arises on areas of the skin that have been in the sun. It is most common on the face. Basal cell cancer rarely spreads to other parts of the body.

Basal cell carcinoma can take several forms. It can appear as a shiny translucent or pearly nodule, a sore that continuously heals and then re-opens, a pink slightly elevated growth, reddish irritated patches of skin, or a waxy scar.

What Is the Best Treatment?

If the tissue is cancerous the doctor considers a number of factors to determine the best treatment for skin cancer, such as the location of the cancer, its size, and whether or not the cancer has spread beyond the skin. There are three basic surgical techniques available to remove the cancerous growth: electrodesiccation and curettage, conventional surgery and Mohs’ surgery.

Electrodesiccation and curettage scrapes the cancerous skin with a curette, an instrument with a sharp, spoon-shaped end. The area then is generally treated by electrodesiccation. Electrodesiccation is an electric current from a special machine that is used to control bleeding and kill any cancer cells remaining around the edge of the wound.

Conventional surgery cuts the cancer from the skin along with some of the healthy tissue around it.

Mohs’ technique shaves off one thin layer of skin at a time until the entire tumor is removed.

There are other non-surgical techniques such as cryosurgery (freezing the tumor), laser therapy (uses a narrow beam of light to remove or destroy cancer cells), radiation therapy (uses high-energy rays to damage cancer cells and stop them from growing), or topical chemotherapy (anticancer drugs in cream or lotion form that are applied to the skin).

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