Each individual is a unique body that simultaneously performs many functions: protective, barrier, secretory, and others. In fact, it protects all internal tissues and organs from adverse external factors, including toxins and radiation. One of the more common cancer diseases is skin cancer. This is the name of a pathology of a malignant nature, which is an atypical transformation of epithelial cells with possible expansion into the soft tissues. This type of cancer accounts for about a tenth of all cancer cases in the country. The disease equally affects men and women; the risk group is represented by elderly patients aged 65 years and older (Ng et al., 2018, p. 941). It is crucial to correctly identify a new formation on the skin that has the potential to be malignant. Early detection of skin cancer can seriously improve a person’s chances of treatment. Thus, it is essential to identify the symptoms of the disease and treatments for skin cancer.
The Impact of Illness on The Human Body
When skin cancer develops, the transformation of the cells of the multilayered squamous epithelium with significant polymorphism occurs. Initially, skin cancer does not cause discomfort, but pain, itching, and moist sores appear as the disease progresses. The center of the neoplasm may gradually scar, but in general, it does not heal but continues to increase from the edges. When palpating, a lump can be found in the center (Craythorne & Al-Niami, 2017). As cancer progresses, it grows deep into the tissue, destroying other layers, namely muscles, fascia, and bones, and causing inflammatory processes in nearby organs. For example, if localized on the face, sinusitis, otitis media, and meningitis may be involved (Craythorne & Al-Niami, 2017). It can reduce hearing and vision and affect the vital parts of the brain.
The spread of malignant cells (metastasis) first occurs through the lymphatic vessels. The lymph nodes thicken and become enlarged. Initially, they are painless to palp and mobile, but they fuse with the surrounding tissues over time (Craythorne & Al-Niami, 2017). The nodes become painful and immobile. If not treated further, the lymph node collapses to form an ulcer on the skin’s surface above it. Cancer cells spread to other organs within the bloodstream, causing metastases to the lungs, stomach, breast, bones, kidneys, and adrenal glands (Craythorne & Al-Niami, 2017). The symptoms associated with cancer of these organs join, including general weakness, pallor, and elevated body temperature.
The Signs of The Disease
The Causes of Skin Cancer
Appearance of any malignant neoplasm is a consequence of the malfunctioning of the organism: normally, the immune system destroys defective cells before they start the uncontrolled division. If, for some reason, the protective mechanisms do not function, the tumor increases in size and becomes invulnerable to its own defense system (Craythorne & Al-Niami, 2017). In the case of skin cancer, the most dangerous environmental factors enhancing the probability of tumor development are ultraviolet and ionizing radiation. In addition, there is exposure to aggressive substances of chemicals. Experts mention that malignant skin neoplasms, melanoma in particular, are often provoked by solarium use (Craythorne & Al-Niami, 2017). Moreover, if a family has cases of skin cancer, there is an increased risk of developing this pathology in the family members.
The Symptoms and Characteristics of Skin Cancer
Any variety of malignant tumors first manifests locally in the affected area and then, if untreated, affects the patient’s well-being. In the case of skin cancer, the ratio between local and general symptoms benefits local ones (Craythorne & Al-Niami, 2017). By the late stages of the disease, those around the individual may not suspect that the person is ill. Local symptoms of skin cancer are noticeable: it may be a wound that does not heal for weeks or months, a spot that gradually increases in size, or a mole that has changed shape or color (Craythorne & Al-Niami, 2017). The tumors may progress slowly or quickly, depending on the type of puffiness, but the change in skin is progressive in either case.
The Diagnostic Techniques
Doctors specializing in diagnosing skin cancer have an impressive arsenal of diagnostic techniques to confirm or deny the diagnosis and classify the tumor. The examination is the most prominent and easiest way to suspect the presence of a neoplasm (Apalla et al., 2017). If an individual is concerned that they might have skin cancer, they should examine an unusual scope of their body and have it evaluated by a doctor. This will compare the suspicious mole or ulcer with other clusters of pigment cells (Apalla et al., 2017). During the skin exam, the doctor or nurse will examine the skin for moles, birthmarks, or other abnormal pigmented areas in color, size, shape, or texture. Most melanomas on the skin can be visible to the unaided eye. Melanoma usually develops under the top layer of the skin (epidermis) for a long time but does not reach the deeper layer of the skin (dermis). This allows skin cancer to be detected at an early stage (Apalla et al., 2017). Melanoma is easier to treat if detected before it spreads. If there is an issue, the physician will prescribe additional diagnostic methods.
For a more accurate diagnosis, dermatologists are using a dermatoscopy. It is a device that allows the structure of a neoplasm to be observed in detail in polarized light. To definitively confirm the nature of the tumor, a biopsy is applied. The physician removes a small piece of tissue from the affected area to examine it under a microscope in a laboratory (Apalla et al., 2017). Ultrasound and CT scans are needed to identify possible metastases. The process is conducted under local anesthesia and involves taking a tissue sample for further laboratory examination. The patient is referred for an X-ray and CT scan if the cancer diagnosis is confirmed (Apalla et al., 2017). It is mandatory to perform a laboratory blood test to assess metastasis.
The Treatment of Skin Cancer at Different Stages of the Disease
It is essential to mention that physicians offer treatment for skin cancer at different stages of the disease. Surgery is the preliminary method to remove the tumor. The surgery is most effective in the early stages when cancer does not affect lymph nodes or other organs and tissues. Since skin cancer often forms on the face, there are minimizing intervention techniques that minimize aesthetic defects (Ng at al., 2017). These include cryosurgery, in which the tumor is frozen with aqueous nitrogen and removed without significant tissue trauma. It is possible to cure the tumor for basal and squamous cell skin cancer. That is, scraping with a special tool and subsequent cauterization (electrocoagulation) of the wound surface to destroy the last cancer cells. Furthermore, radiotherapy is also used to supplement the surgical approach (Ng at al., 2017). Radiation is destructive to cells prone to rapid growth, which is why directed beams of ionizing radiation can reduce the size of the tumor and destroy those malignant cells that remain after surgery. The duration of radiotherapy sessions and the radiation dose is individual for each patient.
Additionally, chemotherapy is used, which can be systemic or local. A cytotoxic (cell-destroying) chemical is injected intravenously or applied directly to the tumor when this technique is used. This approach is critical when distant metastases are detected (Ng at al., 2017). The following method is photodynamic therapy, which involves the destruction of the tumor with a laser beam after preliminary photosensitization. This is a relatively new technique, and its application without surgery is still controversial (Ng et al., 2017). However, advances in technology have contributed to the gradual introduction of photodynamic therapy into the clinical practice of medical institutions. Immune and targeting therapies are complex and promising techniques that involve “targeted” destruction of the tumor by stimulating the immune system (Ng at al., 2017). An essential part of skin cancer treatment is the timely diagnosis of the disease. Annual preventive screening helps to detect cancer at an early stage and avoid a lethal outcome.
Therefore, skin cancer is a malignant disease accompanied by the degeneration of epithelial cells and the formation of a tumor. The pathology begins gradually; often, the first signs of the disease are changes in warts and moles. First, a visual examination of the changed skin area is performed. This is quite an informative research method, enabling suspecting skin cancer. In order to specify a definitive diagnosis, a biopsy is conducted, and a small section of the neoplasm is removed for histological examination. The most standard therapy for skin cancer is the surgical removal of the neoplasm. In addition to surgery, the disease can be treated with radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Apalla, Z., Nashan, D., Weller, R. B., & Castellsagué, X. (2017). Skin cancer: Epidemiology, disease burden, pathophysiology, diagnosis, and therapeutic approaches. Dermatology and therapy, 7(1), 5-19.
Craythorne, E., & Al-Niami, F. (2017). Skin cancer. Medicine, 45(7), 431-434.
Ng, C. Y., Yen, H., Hsiao, H. Y., & Su, S. C. (2018). Phytochemicals in skin cancer prevention and treatment: An updated review. International journal of molecular sciences, 19(4), 941.