Actinic keratoses are rough, scaly patches on the skin that are caused by excess sun exposure over many years. For this reason, the condition usually affects older adults and is most frequently found on the face, lips, ears, neck, scalp, or hands. Actinic keratosis is considered precancerous and should be evaluated and treated by a dermatologist to preserve your overall health. Many actinic keratoses, or “field damage” to larger areas of skin, is considered a chronic condition that necessitates close monitoring to minimize the risk of progression to skin cancer.
Basal cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that occurs in the basal skin cells, which are responsible for producing new skin cells. Basal cell carcinoma usually appears as a pink scaly patch or a pearly pink bump. These will commonly have a rolled or raised border with a central depression or ulcer, and they may frequently bleed without cause. Like other types of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma can be caused by excess sun exposure. As such, commonly exposed areas such as the face, neck, chest, back, and arms are most commonly affected.
Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer, but it is also the least common. Melanoma affects the melanocytes or pigment-producing cells. Typically, it will appear as a new, changing or unusual mole. If an existing mole grows in size or changes in shape, color, or border, this can be a sign of melanoma. It is crucial that changing or suspicious moles are evaluated immediately, as melanoma can progress quickly. If not diagnosed in time, the melanoma may spread to the lymph nodes and throughout the body. Melanoma treatment includes a board-certified dermatologist and often other cancer specialists, and it often includes surgery and possibly medication. Your risk of melanoma is higher if a close family member has been diagnosed with melanoma.
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer. It is especially curable when it is caught early. Typically, squamous cell carcinoma will appear as a scaly and red patch, open sore, or a raised growth with a central depression. They may also look similar to a wart and itch or bleed. If neglected or in a high risk site, or if the patient is immunocompromised, squamous cell carcinoma can spread to the lymph nodes and elsewhere in the body. Therefore it is critical that new or rapidly growing lesions be evaluated immediately by a board-certified dermatologist.
Both at-home and professional skin cancer screening is important, especially if you have a family or personal history of skin cancer. If you notice symptoms and suspect you have skin cancer, it is important to see a dermatologist. Dr. Damstetter can then collect a sample of the skin cells and examine them to make an accurate diagnosis.
Skin Cancer Treatment (Non-Mohs)
Skin cancer treatment primarily consists of removing the cancerous cells surgically via excision or a procedure called electrodessication and curettage. Superficial skin cancers may occasionally be treated with topical medications or cryosurgery. In some rare cases, chemotherapy, radiation, and other treatments may be necessary.
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Schedule an Appointment
If you notice signs of skin cancer, schedule an appointment at Reserve Dermatology. Call our Glenview office or contact us online to schedule your first appointment with Dr. Damstetter.