Skin cancer is diagnosed by removing all or part of a skin growth and examining its cells under a microscope. It can be treated by a number of methods depending on the type of cancer, its stage of growth, and its location on your body.
You may not have had previous reason to learn about it, but even so, you probably could have guessed that skin cancer comes in several different forms.
However, like many other people, you may not have guessed that skin cancer occurs more frequently in the United States than any other type of cancer. But it’s the truth: skin cancer happens more often than lung, prostate, colon, and breast cancers put together. A full 20 percent of the population will develop skin cancer at some point in their lives. That’s one in every five people!
Skin Cancer: The Most Common Types
The good news is that we’ve gotten quite good at treating most forms of skin cancer—the trick is early detection. Here are the three most common types of skin cancer:
1. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC). With almost 2.8 million people diagnosed with BCC every year, it is the type of skin cancer that occurs most often. Although they’re infrequently fatal, BCCs can cause considerable disfigurement if left untreated—which means, of course, that catching the signs early and receiving effective treatment is incredibly important.
2. Squamous cell carcinoma. Like basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma usually does not spread to other parts of the body. It can, however, cause disfigurement and damage to nearby structures if left untreated. It can also spread if left untreated for a significant period of time.
3. Malignant melanoma. Thankfully, people frequently catch melanomas while they’re still in the non-invasive stage. But even if so, this is a very serious matter that may well require additional stages of treatment after surgical removal.
Recognizing the Symptoms Early On
Skin cancer develops most frequently in these three areas:
- The head
- The face
- The neck
Why those places? Well, the simple reason is that prolonged sunlight exposure makes you vulnerable to developing cancerous growths. This being the case, if you develop signs of skin cancer in the form of any of several types of unusual growth on your face, neck, head (or any other part of your body), it is important to have a doctor evaluate the growth, and, if it is cancerous, have it removed.
Here in Seattle, our highly regarded plastic surgeons at the Larrabee Center are experienced in removing cancerous growths on the skin, and they will take great pains to conceal any long-term scarring within the natural lines and folds of the body.