What do you know about Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer?
*Warning- The following write up contains several images of skin cancer that some may find graphic. Please view at your own discretion but it is important to be able to identify skin cancer early *
Now that we’re almost halfway through our Skin Cancer Campaign and well into the summer, we hope you’ve had a chance to view our past few write ups. This week we’re focusing on the most common cancer diagnosed in Canada: Non-Melanoma (Canadian Cancer Society).
But first, we want to hear some stories about YOUR cancer journey.
If you feel like sharing your story with the rest of the Nation, please send your submissions to Northern Regional Health Coordinator, Katina Pollard at firstname.lastname@example.org or 250-242-1649.
Why is our skin so important? The Canadian Cancer Society states:
- Our Skin is the body’s largest organ.
- Our skin protects us from harmful factors from the environment such as the sun, hot temperatures and germs.
- Our skin regulates our body temperature, removes waste products from the body through sweat and provides the sense of touch. It also helps make vitamin D.
The next time you have a doctor’s appointment schedule, make sure you do a full thorough scan of your body and document any new findings to share with your Health Care Provider.
According to BC Cancer, the chance of developing skin cancer in
British Columbia is about
1 in 7.
What is Non- Melanoma Skin Cancer?
Just like most cancers, some cells are unable to grow or behave normally. This may lead to unusual looking lesions, moles, skin tags, warts, etc. on your skin. It is important to note, if you do have any of the above on your body it does not automatically mean you have skin cancer. It is, however, still important to document and report any new findings on your body to a health care professional immediately. Non-Melanoma is curable with early detection!
What is the cause of Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer?
Statistics for non-melanoma skin cancers show that the chance of developing it increases with age. Most new cases are diagnosed in people between 80 and 90 years of age. However, there are several other risk factors which could lead to an earlier diagnosis. These include UV exposure, weakened immune system, fair or light skin, hair or eye tones, and a family history of skin cancer.
Let’s learn about the 2 types of Non-Melanoma:
The 2 main types of non-melanoma skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell.
With early detection and treatment, almost all basal cell carcinomas can be successfully removed without any complications. It’s most important to check for basal cell carcinomas where your skin is most exposed to the sun, especially the face, ears, neck, scalp, chest, shoulders and back, but remember that they can occur anywhere on the body. (Skin Cancer Foundation, 2020)
What you want to look for (Skin Cancer Foundation, 2020):
- An open sore that does not heal, and may bleed, ooze or crust. The sore might persist for weeks or appear to heal and then come back.
- A reddish patch or irritated area, on the face, chest, shoulder, arm or leg that may crust, itch, hurt or cause no discomfort.
- A shiny bump or nodule that is pearly or clear, pink, red or white. The bump can also be tan, black or brown, especially in dark-skinned people, and can be mistaken for a normal mole.
- A small pink growth with a slightly raised, rolled edge and a crusted indentation in the center that may develop tiny surface blood vessels over time.
- A scar-like area that is flat white, yellow or waxy in color. The skin appears shiny and taut, often with poorly defined borders. This warning sign may indicate an invasive basal cell carcinoma.
Squamous cell skin carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma can occur on any part of the body, but they are more common on areas of skin exposed to the sun like the scalp, ear or face, so pay attention to these areas.
What you want to look for:
- Squamous cell carcinoma initially appears as skin-colored or a light red nodule, usually with a rough surface.
- They often resemble warts and sometimes resemble open bruises with raised, crusty edges.
- The lesions tend to develop slowly and can grow into a large tumor, sometimes with central ulceration.
Prognosis and Treatment?
Both cancers are very slow growing, but early diagnosis is important and improves your survival. Survival for most non-melanoma skin cancers is excellent. The 5-year relative survival for Basil cell carcinoma is 100%. This means that, on average, all of the people diagnosed with basal cell skin cancer are just as likely to live at least 5 years after their diagnosis as people in the general population. The 5-year relative survival for squamous cell carcinoma is slightly less at 95%.
The treatment of both cancers depends on the stage. If the cancer is detected early, it can usually be treated in the physician’s office. If the cancer progresses it could lead to surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy if radiation and surgery cannot be performed. (Canadian Cancer Society, 2020)
When you’ve exhausted all possibilities, remember this: You haven’t
~ Thomas Edison