Excessive exposure to sun along with characteristics such as fair complexion can make one susceptible to skin cancer. Skin Cancer is the most common form of all cancers According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, more than 3.5 million skin cancers in over 2 million people are diagnosed annually.
Some skin cancers can be quite aggressive and challenging to treat. Because early detection is critical, dermatology patients are regularly examined to identity suspicious skin conditions. Typically they will examine the areas that are exposed to the sun including the face, hands, arms and neck. When a skin cancer has been detected, our dermatologists offer the most advanced treatment options.
The three most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma (the most common and least dangerous), squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma (the least common but most dangerous type). These names come from the name of the type of cell that becomes cancerous, a basal cell, a squamous cell, or a melanocyte.
Cancer is a very frightening word that is used to describe many very different diseases with many very different prognoses. Most cells that make up the body divide and reproduce in an orderly manner at a set slow pace. This allows the body to grow, replace worn-out tissue and repair injuries. If one of these cells is injured in some way (for example, by the sun) and becomes cancerous, it begins to replicate and divide much more quickly. With the cell dividing more rapidly, the body is unable to process all of the new cells and a mass or ball of these cells is formed. This mass of new cells is called a tumor.
In some tumors, the cells may break away from the mass, travel in the blood or lymphatic stream and set up in another part of the body and continue growing and invading the tissue. This process is called metastasizing and is associated with the more dangerous forms of cancer. This almost never occurs in basal cell carcinomas and is rare in squamous cell carcinomas that are smaller than two centimeters in width. Although not common with today’s advanced diagnostic and therapeutic methods, melanoma is most likely to metastasize and spread to other parts of the body such as the lungs, liver and bones.
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is a skin cancer that arises from basal cells. Basal cells are found in the lower layers of the skin. The prognosis for patients with BCC is excellent, but if the lesion is left untreated, it can cause significant disease progression. BCC occurs primarily on the face, head, scalp, neck, and hands.
Basal Cell Carcinoma can include the following characteristics:
- Waxy appearance
- Pearly appearance
- Erosion or ulceration — often in the center with pigmentation
- Bleeding — especially when traumatized
- Oozing or crusted areas — especially in large BCCs
- Rolled (raised) border
- Slow growing: 0.5 cm in 1 – 2 years
Patients with a history of skin cancer should have regular full body skin exams performed by their Dermatologist, and all patients should perform monthly self examinations.
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Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous Cell Carcinoma is the second most common skin cancer. It arises from the superficial layers of the skin and is directly related to cumulative sun exposure. It often presents as a rough patch that bleeds, or as a rapidly growing red bump that bleeds or is tender. It may arise from an actinic keratosis. There is a positive risk of metastasis mostly in high risk patients (immunodeficient) and treatment for a squamous cell carcinoma is primarily surgical.
Melanoma is a skin cancer of the melanocytes which are the pigment producing cells of the skin.Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, but if recognized and treated early it is almost always curable. The majority of melanomas are black or brown but they can also be skin colored, pink, red or purple. Melanoma is caused mainly by intense occasional UV exposure and sunburns. The ABCDE warning signs of melanoma are growths that are:
- A — asymmetrical
- B — borders — uneven
- C- color — having a variety of color in the growth
- D — diameter — usually larger than the size of an eraser on a pencil
- E — evolving — changing in size, shape, color or elevation. Also with new symptoms such as bleeding, itching or crusting
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Histology is the study of organic tissues. At the DMG Histology lab, staff are able to review the structure and tissue of samples to determine if cells are cancerous or contain other diseases.
The Dermatology Histology Lab in Naperville has also been accredited by the College of American Pathologists (CAP) which is a huge achievement that speaks to the quality provided to patients needing histology testing.Histology is the study of organic tissues.