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Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the world. Every year, nearly 5.5 million Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer and doctors have reported that skin cancer rates are growing faster than breast, colon and lung cancer combined. There are two types of skin cancer. The first is melanoma, which is less common and affects the deeper layers of the skin. Melanoma is more aggressive and difficult to treat. The second type of skin cancer is nonmelanoma skin cancer. This is a broad category that includes all cancers that are not melanoma and that occur in the outer layers of the skin. It can be classified into several categories, depending on the cancer cells causing it and compared to melanoma is much less dangerous and easy to treat if diagnosed early. Nonmelanoma skin cancer is the most common type of skin cancer.
There are several types of nonmelanoma skin cancer and they are classified depending on the type of skin cell causing the them. However, there are just two main types of nonmelanoma skin cancer, which account for most skin cancer cases:
Apart from these two types, there are several other subdivisions of nonmelanoma skin cancer and together they account for just 5% of cases:
The symptoms of nonmelanoma skin cancer depend on the specific type of cancer that the patient is dealing with. Nonmelanoma signs and symptoms can be both painful and painless, but, as a general rule, the first obvious symptom is a change in the appearance of the skin. More often than not, this change does not appear overnight, it slowly progresses, which is why in some cases it may go unnoticed. To discover skin cancer as quickly as possible, people are advised to look at their skin closely every month and see their doctor if they notice one or more of the following:
The signs of basal cell carcinoma can be mistaken for a benign skin lesion such as wart or an allergy.
In most cases, nonmelanoma skin cancer does not hurt, which is why many people discard it. It may appear as a lump, bump or discoloration or as a bruise. However, what sets cancer apart from an innocent lesion is that it appears without a clear reason and does not disappear in several weeks.
When this type of skin cancer occurs around the nerves, symptoms may also include numbing and tingling of the surrounding area.
Nonmelanoma skin cancer may appear on any area of the body, but it is more common on the areas that are exposed to sunlight, such as the arms, legs and face. In rare forms of nonmelanoma skin cancer, the tumor can also appear on the eyelids or neck.
Because the symptoms of nonmelanoma skin cancer are very similar to the ones caused by other conditions, and because nonmelanoma skin cancer does not spread, the only certain diagnosis of nonmelanoma skin cancer can be given through a biopsy.
The biopsy is a relatively simple medical procedure during which the doctor removes all or part of the skin tissue and tests it under a microscope for signs of abnormal cell growth. The biopsy will tell if those cells are normal and the growth is caused by something or else or if they are indeed cancerous.
In addition to the biopsy, the patient will also be required several details that will aid the medical investigation, such as their medical history, family history, existing conditions and symptoms and results of previous blood tests.
The preferred and most successful treatment for nonmelanoma skin cancer is surgery. Because this form of cancer does not spread to the surrounding tissue, complete removal of the tumor and area surrounding it will suffice. Surgery is done under local anesthesia and has a short recovery time. The patient is asked to avoid intense physical exercise until the stitches are removed and afterwards they may apply a lotion on the scar to speed up tissue healing.
If the tumor is situated in an area where surgery is not possible or if the patient cannot undergo surgery, then the doctor may also recommend non-surgical nonmelanoma treatments such as:
In many cases, the treatment for nonmelanoma skin cancer is done in the diagnosis stage, when the doctor removes tissue for the biopsy. If the healthcare provider has reason to believe that the growth is indeed a cancerous tumor, then they can preemptively remove all of it plus the surrounding skin and then send it to the biopsy. More often than not, nonmelanoma skin cancer tumors or growths that are similar to it also pose an aesthetic concern, so doctors remove them from the very beginning.
The causes of nonmelanoma skin cancer are diverse, ranging from generic to environmental:
Nonmelanoma skin cancer risk factors include:
Although nonmelanoma skin cancer is very common and widespread, it can be prevented. Nonmelanoma skin cancer prevention includes the following lifestyle changes: