What is Skin Cancer?
Skin Cancer is very common around the world. There are two main types of Skin Cancer: the more common but less serious Non-Melanoma, and Malignant Melanoma, often just called Melanoma.
Most people diagnosed with Skin Cancer are over 50, but anyone can develop Skin Cancer.
You're more likely to get it if you have any of the following:
Lots of moles or freckles
Fair skin that burns easily
Red or fair hair
A history of sunburn
A personal or family history of Skin Cancer
How common is it?
Around 72,100 cases of Non Melanoma Skin Cancer are diagnosed in the UK each year. This makes it the most common type of cancer by far and it tends to be under reported. Because Non Melanoma Skin Cancers are easy to treat and cure, they're often left out of national cancer statistics.
What to look out for
The most common sign of Skin Cancer is a change to a mole, freckle or normal patch of skin. It's important to know your skin and what it looks like normally so you notice any unusual or persistent changes. Use a mirror, or ask your partner or a friend to check the areas of your skin that you can't see.
Below are some things to look out for in Melanoma Skin Cancer. Please be aware that not all Skin Cancers look like this. These pictures are just examples and are not to scale.
Types of Skin Cancer
Non Melanoma Skin Cancer includes 2 main types:
Basal Cell Skin Cancer (BCC)
Squamous Cell Skin Cancer (SCC)
They're named after the types of skin cells where the cancer develops. It's possible for a Non Melanoma Skin Cancer to be a mixture of both these types.
Non Melanoma Skin Cancer is different from Melanoma. Melanoma is the type of Skin Cancer that most often develops from a mole. > Find Out More about Melanoma Skin Cancer
Basal Cell Skin Cancer
BCC is the most common type of Skin Cancer. About 75 out of every 100 cases (75%) of Non Melanoma Skin Cancers are BCCs. They develop from basal cells and these are found in the deepest layer of the epidermis and around the hair follicle.
They develop mostly in areas of skin exposed to the sun including parts of the face such as the nose, forehead and cheeks. Also, on your back or lower legs.
It is most often diagnosed in people who are middle or old age.
Mr Khan might also call your Basal Cell Carcinoma a rodent ulcer.
There's a number of different subtypes, each can look and behave differently. These include:
About a half of BCCs are the nodular type.
It's very rare for Basal Cell Skin Cancer to spread to another part of the body to form a Secondary Cancer. It's possible to have more than one Basal Cell Cancer at any one time and having had one does increase your risk of getting another. > Go to Symptoms of Skin Cancer
Squamous Cell Skin Cancer
SCC is generally faster growing than Basal Cell Cancers. About 20 out of every 100 cases (20%) of Skin Cancers are SCC. They begin in cells called Keratinocytes, found in the epidermis layer of the skin.
Most SCCs develop in areas that have been exposed to the sun. These areas include parts of the head, neck, and on the back of your hands and forearms. They can also develop in scars, areas of skin that have been burnt in the past, or that have been ulcerated for a long time.
SCCs don't often spread. If they do, it's most often to the deeper layers of the skin. They can spread to nearby lymph nodes and other organs causing secondary cancers, but this is unusual.
Rarer types of Non Melanoma Skin Cancer
There are other less common types of Skin Cancer. These make up only about 1 out of every 100 (1%) Skin Cancers diagnosed in the UK. They are:
Merkel Cell Carcinoma
T cell Lymphoma of the skin
These are all treated differently from Basal Cell and Squamous Cell Skin Cancers.
Merkel Cell Carcinoma is very rare. Treatment is with surgery or radiotherapy, or both. This usually works well, but sometimes the cancer can come back in the same place. And sometimes it spreads to nearby lymph nodes.
Kaposi’s Sarcoma is a rare condition. It's often associated with HIV but also occurs in people who don't have HIV. It's a cancer that starts in the cells that form the lining of blood vessels in the skin. Treatment is surgery or radiotherapy, and sometimes chemotherapy.
T cell Lymphoma of the skin can also be called Primary Cutaneous Lymphoma.
Bowen’s Disease is a very early form of Non Melanoma Skin Cancer. It can appear anywhere on the skin and usually looks like a red patch that might be itchy. It is most commonly found on the lower leg, particularly in older women.
It can also develop on moist membranes of the body. For example, it can appear as a white patch in the mouth or a red patch in the genital area.
If not treated Bowen's Disease might develop into Squamous Cell Skin Cancer.
What are the Treatments?
Treatment of most Skin Cancers involves minor surgery under local anaesthetic to remove them.
Some cancers may be treatable with creams, frozen with liquid nitrogen or treated with radiotherapy. It is important to see a specialist who can discuss all the options with you. Treatment is successful in the vast majority of cases.
What Should I do if I Think i have Skin Cancer?
The main test to diagnose Skin Cancer is to take a sample (Biopsy) of the area. Find out about the different biopsies.
You need to go to your GP if you are worried about an abnormal area of skin. Your GP might refer you to a specialist if they think you have Skin Cancer. Or they might do a Biopsy themselves if they have had the specialist training.
Why should I find Treatment Privately?
An advantage of ‘going private’ is Mr Khan can see you within a few days of referral, and offer a ‘see and treat’ service i.e. removal of the lesion for biopsy in the same appointment. You can either refer yourself or be referred through your GP. The histology (analysis under the microscope) with be fast-tracked too, and Mr Khan will ring you personally with the results as soon as they are available. Mr Khan's patients feel reassured by the professional, fast, personal and friendly service he delivers, with a continuity of service that, unfortunately, is no longer delivered on the NHS.
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