Skin Cancer - Medical Malpractice Lawyers

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Skin Cancer - Medical Malpractice

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in humans. More than one million cases show up in the US every year and this is a conservative estimate. There is more and more skin cancer every year due to the increased strength of the sun and the depletion of the ozone layer. There are three main skin cancers to consider. These are basal cell cancer, squamous cell cancer and melanoma. Of these, only melanoma is significantly deadly. Fortunately it is much more rare than squamous cell cancer or basal cell cancer.

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. It makes up about 90 percent of skin cancers found. They spread extremely rarely but can erode into surrounding tissue and can cause disfigurement.

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer and accounts for more than 90% of all skin cancer in the U.S. These cancers almost never spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. They can, however, cause damage by growing and invading surrounding tissue.

Risk factors for developing basal cell carcinoma include being fair-skinned and being exposed to the sun. Older people are more likely to get basal cell carcinoma than younger people. Twenty percent of all basal cell carcinomas occur in skin that is not exposed to the sun. Common areas are the face, chest, back, arms, legs and scalp. The condition is more common in those areas of the world that get a lot of sun and who have light skinned people living there. Tanning booths can contribute to getting basal cell carcinoma. If a person gets therapeutic radiation for another type of cancer, they can get basal cell cancers in the same area.

Basal cell carcinomas look like pearly, dome-shaped lesions that can easily ulcerate and bleed. It can look like a flesh-colored mole. A biopsy can tell if it is just a mole or if it is basal cell cancer of the skin. Some basal cell carcinomas can have pigment in it and can look like melanomas. Only a biopsy can tell the difference.

Basal cell cancer can be treated using destructive methods like laser or can be removed surgically. This works in more than 90 percent of cases. The scar is usually small and plastic surgery techniques can be used to make the scar less noticeable.

Squamous cell cancer of the skin begins with a lesion called an actinic keratosis, which is a variously pigmented shaggy or dry lesion on the skin. As it thickens and grows, it becomes ulcerated or thicker and becomes a squamous cell cancer. Squamous cell cancers are only about a fourth as common as basal cell cancers but are also related to sun exposure. Men are more disposed to getting squamous cell cancer as women. Common places for squamous cell cancers are on the face, scalp, arms and the backs of the hands. They appear as mottled lesions on seriously sun-damaged skin. About 10-20 percent of all actinic keratoses eventually turn into skin cancer within ten years so they should all be watched.

Risk factors for squamous cell cancer are sun exposure, age, exposure to arsenic, heat, x-rays or hydrocarbons. Some squamous cell cancers arise out of scar tissue. Immunosuppression can contribute to getting squamous cell cancers.

Squamous cell cancer rarely metastasizes so it can be treated with destructive methods or surgery. Actinic keratoses can be treated with cryotherapy that destroys the damaged cells before they become cancerous. Surgery can leave scars but if plastic surgery techniques are employed, the scar can be minimized. Radiation therapy can be employed to treat squamous cell carcinomas. Some chemotherapy creams such as 5 fluorouracil can be used to attack the squamous cell cancer. They are used by application to the affected skin. Other creams include Effudex, Fluoroplex or Aldara. They stimulate the immune system so that you can fight off the cancer yourself.

Malignant melanoma is the worst of all skin cancers with a chance of metastasis and death possible. The cancer begins in the pigment producing cells of the skin, called melanocytes. They can form on normal skin but often involve a change in a mole. The pigment then spreads and the mole appears to become larger and out of the margins of the raised part of the mole.

The treatment of malignant melanoma involves invasive surgery to remove all cancer, removal of nearby lymph nodes, chemotherapy and radiation.

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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here