There are many different types of skin cancer and thankfully, most of them are not life-threatening and can be treated and cured with relatively small procedures. Even the most dangerous type, Malignant Melanoma, is curable if it’s detected in its early stages. However, if a late diagnosis occurs, this may result in a life-threatening situation with a need for invasive surgery and intensive treatment.
There are four stages of skin cancer. Stage I cancers are small and limited to the area of skin they formed in. Stage IV cancers are advanced which means that they have spread to other areas of the body. Early or late diagnosis will greatly dictate the stage of skin cancer identified and thus, the success rate of treatment.
If your doctor diagnoses you with a superficial cancer such as basal carcinoma, a biopsy that removes the entire growth is the only test needed to determine its stage. However, if a large squamous cell carcinoma, Merkel cell carcinoma or melanoma is diagnosed, further tests to determine the extent or stage of the cancer may be required. These might include imaging tests on nearby lymph nodes or a procedure to remove them to examine it for signs of cancer (sentinel lymph node biopsy).
Treatment options for skin cancer or precancerous skin lesions will vary depending on cancer type, stage, size, location, and depth of lesions. Early diagnosed skin cancers may be treated by cryosurgery or excisional surgery whereas late diagnosed skin cancers may often require more invasive surgery such as Mohs surgery, curettage, and cryotherapy. However, cancers that have spread to vital organs of the body such as lungs or brain, are very unlikely to be cured by surgery. Therefore, more intensive treatment such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy, photodynamic and biological therapy are often needed.
Dealing with a diagnosis of any type can be overwhelming. This is why learning about your condition and treatment, and getting checked as soon as you notice any problematic signs, can enable you to feel more in control of your outcome, help you progress through your treatment, and be the difference between powerful or powerless.
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