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Posted by Cedars Dermatology, 10th February 2021
Skin cancer can seem an incredibly scary diagnosis – it’s the ‘c’ word that we all fear – but actually, with early intervention, most types can be treatable. Here’s our dermatologist’s guide to the main types of skin cancer, as well as recommended skin cancer treatment.
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) – this is the most common skin cancer and is usually caused by sun exposure. Most cases can be cured, but it depends on placement and whether the cancer has spread. Thankfully, BCC has a slow growth rate and usually doesn’t spread. There are a few different symptoms, ranging from flat white/yellow areas of skin, to raised red patches or bumps, to pink growths with raised edges. Sometimes, symptoms include open sores. Skin cancer treatment for BCC usually involves surgery, where the cancer is cut away and stitched afterwards, though sometimes a skin graft is needed.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) – another type of cancer that’s slow-growing, it too can present as open sores or warts, red patches, and indented bumps. Again, it can appear on most areas of the body, ranging from the face to the chest or hands. SCC has the best curative rate if it’s detected early, and if it hasn’t spread. As with BCC, skin cancer treatment for SCC involves surgery.
Melanoma – this forms in the skin cells that produce pigment, the melanocytes. It can develop anywhere on the body – even on the soles of the feet and under the nails – but it’s not a very common type of skin cancer. It typically presents as a brown or black spot with a mix of colours and an irregular border.Skin cancer treatment for melanoma first involves cutting away the lesions, then sending them to a lab for examination. If found to be melanoma, a ‘stage diagnosis’ will be made. The NHS says that in the early stages, ‘once the melanoma has been removed…no further treatment should be needed’. However, nearly all cases are monitored for up to 5 years to ensure it doesn’t return.
Merkel cell carcinoma – this is an aggressive, fast-growing skin cancer but thankfully, it’s rare and usually appears in older people. It’s characterised by fleshy nodules that can be skin-coloured, blue, red or purple. It’s so-called because it starts in the merkel cells, which sit underneath the top layer of skin, close to the nerve endings, and may be involved in the sensation of touch. This type of skin cancer treatment may involve Mohs surgery, which is where tissue is removed and checked under a microscope to check for cancer cells. Surgery is then used until the point no cancer cells are found in the tissue.
Our dermatologists also use specialist creams, cryotherapy (freezing with liquid nitrogen), and cuttage and cautery (scraping the skin, then sealing with heat) as skin cancer treatments. In more advanced cases, radiotherapy or chemotherapy may be used. If you suspect you might have skin cancer or have a suspicious area of skin you’d like investigating, then talk to our expert Harley Street dermatologists today.