Skin cancer is any group of abnormal cells that group and grow in the skin cells. 1 in every 5 people in America will develop some type of skin cancer during their life, which makes it the most common cancer in the United States, but it is also the most treatable if caught early. Types of skin cancer that may be treated by our board-certified radiation oncologist with external radiation beam therapy at Premier Cancer Centers in Dallas, TX include:
- Basal cell skin cancer: the most common type of skin cancer that grows slowly and typically does not spread
- Squamous cell skin cancer: develops in the deeper layers of the skin and is unlikely to spread to other areas of the body
- Melanoma skin cancer: develops in the pigment-making cells of the skin (melanocytes), and is more likely to grow and spread if left untreated
For more information on skin cancer, visit the Skin Cancer Foundation's website at www.skincancer.org.
The most common cause of skin cancer is excess exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from natural sunlight and tanning beds. People with lighter skin tone are more likely to get skin cancer since skin pigment increases UV protection, but all skin tones and races can get skin cancer. Other risk factors for developing skin cancer include use of tobacco, being infected with the human papilloma virus (HPV), and environmental carcinogens. Men are more likely to get skin cancer than women and most skin cancer patients are older.
Self-exams to check for skin changes are very important in detecting skin cancer. The ABCDE rule for self-exams helps people remember what signs to look for in their skin:
- Asymmetry: each half of a birthmark or mole should match
- Border: irregular, ragged, notched or blurred edges
- Color: different colors or shades within a spot
- Diameter: spots over 6 mm across should be checked by a doctor
- Evolving: the spot changes in size, shape, or color over time
Other warning signs of skin cancer include:
- Chronic itching, tenderness, or pain
- Pigment that spreads from a spot to the normal skin
- Redness or swelling of the skin
- Skin wounds and sores that do not heal
Skin cancer may be detected during a self-exam of the skin or during a physical exam when a doctor notices a change in the skin, or a symptom of skin cancer. To confirm skin cancer, a skin biopsy will be performed to determine if the area is malignant or benign.
The advanced TomoTherapy H Series can be used to treat different types of skin cancer in several areas of the body using noninvasive radiation therapy.
Radiation Side Effects
The most common side effect of radiation therapy during treatment for skin cancer is a reddening of the skin in any areas that are being treated.
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