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Skin Cancer

Treatment For Skin Cancers

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer, as well as the most common of all cancers. It is almost always caused by chronic exposure to sunlight -- especially sunburns -- which is why the most frequently exposed parts of the body -- the face, ears, neck, scalp, shoulders, and back, are the most affected. People who have fair skin, blonde or red hair, and blue, green, or gray eyes are at highest risk. BCC grows slowly and very rarely metastasizes, so when it is diagnosed and treated early, the prognosis for those with BCC is excellent.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is a serious form of skin cancer, and the second most common type of skin cancer. If left untreated, it can penetrate underlying tissue, causing disfigurement and metastisization, which can be fatal. Chronic exposure to sunlight causes most cases of squamous cell carcinoma. Areas of the body that are frequently exposed to the sun are most affected, and the rim of the ear and the lower lip are especially vulnerable to the development of SCC. Warning signs include wart-like growths, open sores or scaly patches that cluster and bleed, elevated and rapidly growing growth with a central depression, and persistent, scaly red patches with irregular borders.

BCC & SCC are treated in a variety of ways. These include topical medications; scraping off with a curette and tumor desiccation with an electrocautery needle; excision surgery, radiation, Mohs micrographic surgery, cryotherapy, and other modalities.

Actinic Kerotosis (AKs)

Up to 58 million Americans have actinic keratoses (AKs). AKs have the potential to progress to squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), the second most common skin cancer. While most AKs remain benign, approximately 10 percent develop into SCC within an average of two years. Since there is no way to know ahead of time which ones will become cancerous, it is very important to seek a dermatologist’s care. Frequent skin examinations are the key to early detection and prevention.

What are Actinic Karatoses (AKs)?

AKs – often called “sun spots”— are rough-textured, dry, scaly patches on the skin caused by excessive exposure to ultraviolet light (UV) such as sunlight. They occur most often on sun exposed areas such as the face, scalp or ears, and can range in color from skin toned to reddish brown. They can be as small as a pinhead or larger than a quarter.

Blu-U Treatment for AKs

Levulan® Kerastick® (aminolevulinic acid HCl) for Topical Solution, 20% (Levulan Kerastick) plus blue light illumination using the BLU-U® Blue Light Photodynamic Therapy Illuminator (Levulan PDT) is indicated for the treatment of minimally to moderately thick actinic keratosis of the face or scalp. Levulan PDT, a 2-part treatment, is unique because it uses a light activated drug therapy to destroy AKs.

So how does it work? Levulan Kerastick Topical Solution is applied to the AK. The solution is then absorbed by the AK cells where it is converted to a chemical that makes the cells extremely sensitive to light. When the AK cells are exposed to the BLU-U Blue Light Illuminator, a reaction occurs which destroys the AK cells. Levulan PDT has a range of benefits that might be right for you.

For information about Mohs micrographic surgery for skin cancer, Click Here. 

Melanoma

Watch an amazing video about Malignant Melanoma called “Dear 16-year-old Me” by clicking here.

Melanoma, the most lethal form of skin cancer, can have a devastating impact on your life. Melanoma accounts for only 4% of all skin cancers, but is by far responsible for the most skin cancer deaths. Melanoma is also the most malignant of all skin cancers. Currently the state of Idaho has the 8th highest incidence of melanoma, and the highest death rate from melanoma in the nation.

Melanoma forms first in the skin cells that make melanin, which gives skin its color. Melanin also protects the deeper layers of the skin from the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. If the skin receives too much ultraviolet light, the melanocytes may begin to grow abnormally and become cancerous, which is melanoma.

Melanoma can appear anywhere on the skin, but is most common in men above the waist, and on women on the lower legs. If it is caught early and treated properly, often prognosis is very good. But if melanoma metastasizes (spreads to other parts of the body), it is extremely difficult to treat.

People are at higher risk if they have a family history of melanoma, if they have ever had a severe, blistering sunburn as a child or teenager, if they have fair eyes and skin, if they frequently spend time in the sun without sun protection between the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM, or if they have many freckles.

A dermatologist may biopsy the suspected site to look at the cells under a microscope in order to make a correct diagnosis. In early stage melanoma, surgical removal is often the only treatment needed. In late stage melanoma, other adjuvant treatments such as immunotherapy, chemotherapy and radiation therapy may be required. If melanoma spreads to distant parts of the body or to other organs, it cannot be cured.

North Idaho Dermatology is committed to combating this devastating disease and educating you and your family on prevention and early detection of melanoma.

To read an article on Melanoma by Dr. Stephen D. Craig, Click Here.

For information about Mohs micrographic surgery for skin cancer, Click Here.