May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month May 8, 2019 / by The CFD Team
- Learn About Skin Cancer Prevention, Detection, and Treatment
May is National Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month, which means that there’s no better time to have a talk about skin cancer. Why? Well, simply going by the numbers, approximately one in five people in America will develop skin cancer by the time they turn 70, making skin cancer the most common type of cancer - surpassing lung, prostate, and breast cancer. Luckily, if detected and addressed early, most forms of skin cancer are very manageable and treatable. Hopefully, we can use opportunities like this month to raise public awareness about skin cancer, by informing others on how to prevent and detect it, as well as what treatment options are available to them.
While many people are able to survive their skin cancer with appropriate treatments, the first - and most important - step to beating skin cancer is to not develop it in the first place. The vast majority of skin cancers are caused by exposure to harmful UV (ultra-violet) rays emitted by the sun, which means that when you hear about protecting yourself from the sun it’s something you should take seriously. Simple steps like applying sunscreen and managing your sun exposure can assist in minimizing the damaging effects that UV rays have on your skin, and, in turn, reduces your chances of developing skin cancer. This does not mean, however, that indoor tanning is an acceptable or safe alternative, as the use of tanning beds also puts you at a higher risk of developing skin cancer. Remember, the first step to beating skin cancer is to prevent it!
As previously stated, many cases of skin cancer are extremely treatable if they are caught and addressed in the early stages of progression. It is important that everyone take a proactive approach to recognizing abnormalities on their skin. Much in the way that we encourage men and women to examine themselves on a monthly basis for any strange lumps or bumps that could indicate testicular or breast cancer, it’s also a wise idea to carefully observe any development of skin abnormalities, and report them to your doctor. This can include findings such as strange moles, bumps, spots, lesions, or anything else that seems “off” or “not right” and, after discovery, your doctor will likely want to perform some kind of biopsy before making any type of a diagnosis. Frequently monitoring your own body is the best way to make sure that any developments are noticed, evaluated and, if necessary, treated.
Once a case of skin cancer is detected and diagnosed, it is important to begin the best treatment as quickly as possible. The more of a head-start that you and your doctors are able to get on the cancer, the better your chances are of successfully beating it. Just as there are several different types of skin cancer, there are also several treatment options available, including surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, immunotherapy, as well as others.
Mohs surgery, a procedure that we specialize in here at Complete Family Dermatology, is also an option. In this procedure, the cancerous tissue is removed in layers until no more cancer cells remain. This procedure is often used on occurrences of skin cancer on the face, as it removes as little healthy tissue as possible and leaves minimal scarring. Another option along the route of surgical treatment is cryosurgery. In a cryosurgery procedure, a substance, which is usually liquid nitrogen, is used to target and kill the cancerous tissue. In addition to surgical treatment, radiation and chemotherapy are other common treatment options for skin cancer. Radiation therapy will use concentrated x-rays to kill the cancerous cells, while chemotherapy uses medication to achieve much of the same effect. These treatments are, however, known to take a serious toll on the body of the patient. It is important to remember that every case of cancer is different, so it is imperative that you and your physician work together to determine the best treatment method for you.
This May, it’s important that we take advantage of the special opportunity to raise awareness about skin cancer. By providing people with the right information, hopefully we can see a decline in the number of cases of skin cancer, allowing those around us to live happier, healthier, skin-cancer-free lives.