What Causes Basal and Squamous Cell Carcinoma Skin Cancer?
The shortest answer to what causes a person to develop squamous or basal cell carcinoma skin cancer can be given with just one word: sunshine. The sun’s ultraviolet light rays damage skin cells, disrupting the very DNA of the cells and, with enough damage, cause them to turn cancerous. Basal cell carcinoma originates in the skin’s basal cells, and of course the same is true for squamous cell skin cancer.
Even a few bad sunburns in youth can greatly increase a person’s chance to develop skin cancer in later years, but skin cancer is not only an affliction of older adults; even people in their 20s and 30s (and in rarer cases younger) are at risk for squamous and basal cell skin cancers. A family history of cancer of any type may put you at higher risk for developing skin cancer, as does having very fair skin, but the main cause of skin cancer is simply too much unprotected exposure to the skin. Remember, a sun burn is not a burn in the typical sense such as could be caused by contact with a hot stove or an open flame; rather sun burns are literally radiation damage, because ultraviolet light is nothing more than a certain type of radiation. Thinking of sunlight as radiation may help you take avoiding excess exposure more seriously in the future, but it can’t help if you already have signs of skin cancer. For that, you’ll need to seek out a skin cancer specialist, and when you start the search for the best skin cancer doctor near me, make sure you ask about Mohs surgery vs. Superficial Radio Therapy as treatment options, because the more you know about skin cancer treatment options, the better informed choices you can make for your care.
As knowledge is critical for getting the best care for skin cancer, let’s first discuss the affliction in greater detail before we get to the central Superficial Radio Therapy or Mohs surgery question.
How Common Is Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer?
Non-melanoma skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States today. Of the several types of non-melanoma skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma is the type most often developed, with squamous cell carcinoma being the second. These cancers will affect approximately one in four Americans, or 25% of the entire adult population. Which means it’s rather likely you yourself will develop skin cancer at some point in your life, and almost certain you will know many people who find themselves seeking the best non-melanoma skin cancer treatment at many times in your life.
Whether you or a friend or loved one are facing skin cancer, the treatment you choose will be of paramount importance, but better yet will be trying to prevent skin cancer in the first place.
How to Prevent Skin Cancer
The best way to prevent skin cancer is to prevent sun burns. When you will be exposed to the sun for more than 10 or 15 minutes, it’s important that you wear sunblock with a UPF of at least 40 or higher, and that you also cover your skin as much as possible, wearing long clothing when reasonable, wearing hats, and seeking shade as often as you can. There is a time and a place for playing in the sun, lounging out, and enjoying the beach or pool, but frankly there is never a good time to expose skin to sunlight without protective sunscreen.
Making the application of a lotion with a decent UPF rating a part of your daily routine is the best way to make sure you protect your skin from the damaging effects of UV light. (Wearing sunblock regularly will also help prevent premature signs of aging, like wrinkles and spots on the skin.) And remember that ultraviolet light can cause skin damage even on days when the sun is not shining directly down upon you, as UV light can penetrate clouds. You can also get skin damage from sunshine on cooler days, and even in the winter, with the effects of UV light damage often magnified when the sunshine reflects off snow.
In every season and in every climate, using sunblock can help you stay safe from sun damage that leads to skin cancer in as many as one in four adults.
How Serious Is Basal Cell Carcinoma Skin Cancer?
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer and it is well understood by doctors. Basal cell cancer can be treated with a prognosis that is almost always favorable for the patient; this type of skin cancer has an almost 100% survival rate, and some treatments for basal cell carcinoma like Mohs surgery and Superficial Radio Therapy have a 98% cure rate on the first round of treatments. (In rare cases, follow up treatment will be needed for a basal cell carcinoma that is not completely removed or that had already begun to spread. The same treatment may be used again or a different approach attempted.)
Basal cell skin cancer is a very slow spreading affliction, so as long as you identify the symptoms of basal cell cancer early on and seek treatment for your skin cancer promptly, you should be at very little risk for serious illness, for the cancer to metastasize, or of your skin cancer putting you at risk of fatality.
But just because basal cell cancer is slow to spread and highly curable does not mean that you should not take your skin cancer diagnosis very seriously. You need to look into Superficial Radio Therapy for basal cell skin cancer treatment as quickly as you can after it’s confirmed that you have skin cancer, because the faster you get your skin cancer removed, whether with Superficial Radio Therapy, Mohs surgery, or another treatment, the less serious of an issue it will be.
Is Squamous Cell Skin Cancer Deadly?
Squamous cell carcinoma skin cancer is the second most common type of skin cancer, and like basal cell skin cancer, when your doctors implement a course of skin cancer treatment fast enough after diagnosis, squamous cell cancer is highly treatable and the ultimate cure rate is near 100%.
But squamous cell cancer does spread much more rapidly than basal cell carcinoma, and thus it does create more potential risk for the patient. Squamous cell cancer can penetrate down into the skin, reaching bones, muscles, and internal organs and metastasizing into a much more serious and potentially fatal disease.
If you have a family history of squamous cell carcinoma skin cancer, you need to get to a dermatologist for skin checks as often as your skin care professional recommends. And conduct routine self checks from time to time as well.
While squamous cell carcinoma can become a very serious health issue, for a bit of perspective, melanoma skin cancer accounts for more than 75% of deaths caused by skin cancer despite accounting for only 5% of skin cancer cases. With the best treatment like Mohs surgery or Superficial Radio Therapy non-melanoma skin cancer does not need to be a deadly disease.
Common Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Symptoms
It’s important for you to know how many different ways skin cancer symptoms can show up, and also to know that skin cancer can look very different from one person to the next, and skin cancer symptoms can show up differently even on the same person. So while we’ll cover many of the common telltale signs of skin cancer, only a dermatologist who deals with skin cancer can give you the final all clear or can give you a skin cancer diagnosis and then start discussing your treatment options.
When you look for images of skin cancer online or in a medical journal, you’ll be surprised how skin cancer pictures can look so varied from one skin cancer photo to the next. But among the symptoms of non-melanoma skin cancer to watch for are:
- Irregular moles – any newly developed or changing mole may be suspect, but be especially vigilant if you see moles on your skin that are irregular in shape without clearly defined borders, that are made up of more than one color, that seem to bumpy or of uneven thickness, or that have a combination of these characteristics.
- Unexplained sores – skin cancer often creates little sores on the skin that may ooze and fester and that may or may not be painful to the touch. Any sore that appears without an explanation (like an injury, rash, or allergic reaction) and does not heal as expected is a definite cause for concern of skin cancer.
- Raised bumps – many things can cause unusual bumps on the skin, like acne, keloid scars, bug bites, and so on, but an unexplained bump may well be a sign of skin cancer, especially if it has a shiny appearance and is pink to red in coloring.
- Flaky or waxy patches of skin – often confused with age spots, non-melanoma skin cancer often presents itself in the form of little patches of dry skin with a waxy appearance that’s often yellow in hue and tends to flake away in bits.
- Unexplained lesions – open wounds on the skin that form without cause may well be skin cancer presenting itself and should be checked by a skin cancer doctor at once.
Pictures of skin cancer can help you determine if you need to get to a doctor or not in some cases, but more often than not it’s worth taking the time to get to a dermatologist for a checkup if you are even vaguely concerned that you might be seeing signs of skin cancer on your body.
Where On the Body Does Skin Cancer Develop?
You can get skin cancer just about anywhere on your body, because you have skin everywhere on your body. But basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma tend to be much more common in parts of the body that see the most sunshine. That’s why basal cell carcinoma on the nose, the back of the neck, the ears, the forearms and backs of hands, and on the lower legs is so common.
Squamous cell skin cancer also shows up in these regularly exposed parts of the body, including those mentioned, the scalp, and more, squamous cell carcinoma also can show up in parts of the body that essentially never see the sun (and that you yourself might see less often, potentially letting the carcinoma lurk unseen for a time). Squamous cell skin cancer can grow on the bottoms of the feet, in genital areas, and even inside of a person’s mouth in some rarer cases, so while sun exposure is the leading cause of non-melanoma skin cancer, it is possible to get skin cancer without sun burns having occurred in the past.
This chance for skin cancer to appear in unlikely places is all the more reason you need to find a good local dermatologist and get your skin checked routinely. Just like you get a physical annually, it’s a very good idea to get a skin cancer screening checkup from a trusted dermatologist annually as well, as the sooner you catch non-melanoma skin cancer, the better the chances are for a noninvasive skin cancer treatment option with an outcome that will be as good as possible.
What Is the Best Skin Cancer Treatment Option for Me?
When looking for a skin cancer doctor near me, you are of course looking for the dermatologist who can offer the most reliable, effective, and pain free cure for skin cancer, so you should be asking first and foremost what is the best skin cancer treatment? There are, after all, many different treatment options beyond Superficial Radio Therapy vs Mohs surgery, such as cryosurgery, laser surgery and more. But we are going to focus on two of the best skin cancer treatment options from here on.
What Is Mohs Surgery?
Named for Dr. Frederic Mohs who developed the Mohs Micrographic Surgery (or MMS) cancer treatment process, many consider Mohs surgery the best treatment for skin cancer, and it can be used both for non-melanoma skin cancer and for treating melanoma when it’s caught in early stages.
Numerous doctors considered Mohs surgery the best skin cancer treatment option because indeed this course of treatment is effective and reliable. When a doctor uses Mohs surgery to treat non-melanoma skin cancer, the patient undergoes a long and involved surgical session, but one that can lead to a 98% cure rate for skin cancer.
The process of Mohs surgery involves local anesthetic and isolation of the carcinoma to be removed with a sterile surgical field. The skin cancer surgeon then removes the cancerous tissue in layers, also removing as slim as possible a layer of healthy tissue after the carcinoma is excised, to try to ensure complete removal of the cancer. The removed tissues slices are immediately tested at a lab facility right there on the premises so the doctor can be certain when the last of the cancer has been removed and can then decide if wound care with sutures or steri-strips is needed or if the surgical wound is small enough to be left to heal naturally.
Despite the high cure rate of Mohs surgery and the minimal damage left after a treatment, not everyone with skin cancer is a good candidate for Mohs surgery.
Some people do not react well to local anesthetics, while others may have bleeding and clotting issues, making surgical intervention a risky proposition. Fortunately, there is another treatment option that also has a 98% cure rate on the first round of intervention.
What Is Superficial Radio Therapy?
Also known as SRT, Superficial Radio Therapy is actually quite easy to understand despite the seemingly complex name. The “Superficial” refers to the fact that this treatment is focused entirely on the exterior layers of the skin. The “Radiation” does refer to the use of radiation, but not a radiation that penetrates deep into the body such as may be needed for us treating an internal cancer. And then of course there’s the “Therapy,” which simply means the treatment.
SRT can be conducted with a device like the FDA-cleared SRT-100 developed by Sensus Healthcare and is performed right in your doctor’s office, not in a clinical setting like a hospital. A patient will usually need several SRT sessions performed over the course of a handful of days to get the complete cure results wanted.
Is Superficial Radio Therapy Safe?
Yes, SRT is very safe. And in fact, it is almost entirely painless, so there is no need for local anesthetics, one reason many people feel Superficial Radio Therapy is better than Mohs surgery. And unlike the radiation used to treat internal tumors, which can lead to other health complications, the radiation used in SRT penetrates to a maximum depth of five millimeters, so only the carcinoma that is the treatment’s target is affected by the radiation; your healthy tissue is left just that: healthy.
The few issues some patients who receive SRT face are usually quite temporary and rather minor anyway, but include redness and tenderness at the treatment site, with occasional blistering as well. Some people will also experience hair loss near the SRT treatment site, but hair will grow back with time, the follicles themselves not having been destroyed.
The Benefits of Superficial Radio Therapy vs Mohs Surgery
The most obvious leg up for SRT vs Mohs surgery is the fact that some people simply might not be good candidates for Mohs surgery because of the aforementioned issues with pain medications and blood issues. But the recovery time and process is another reason SRT is a great skin cancer treatment options.
With SRT, there really is no recovery to speak of. You will walk out of your doctor’s office after each skin cancer radiation session and can head right home, off to shop for groceries, over to the golf course, or whatever you feel like doing. There is also usually zero scarring, and any marks left over are subtle and minimal, so you need not worry about disfigurement even for skin cancer on the face. Superficial Radio Therapy also produces almost no chance of nerve damage, so you will not lose any sense of touch or any control of a part of your body.
Because there is essentially no wound care with SRT, there is also no post-procedural care to worry about, a great plus for elderly patients or people with limited mobility and body control.
Finding the Best Skin Cancer Doctor Near Me
Now that you know more about Mohs surgery, Superficial Radio Therapy, and the many benefits and few drawbacks of each type of skin cancer treatment, you can narrow down the list of skin cancer doctors you consider for your own treatment to only those who consider these treatments to be the best two options.
Remember, treating non-melanoma skin cancer has to be taken seriously so that your skin cancer diagnosis does not become a serious threat to your life. While basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are highly treatable when caught early, know that people with squamous cell carcinoma in have a five-year survival rate of less than 50% once the cancer has spread down into other parts of the body.
Superficial Radio Therapy for Keloid Scar Treatment
One other benefit of SRT is that the treatment can be used to treat keloid scars from growing back after keloid removal surgery. Whereas without treatment, keloid scars grow back in nearly 90% of removal cases, the scars only reform in about 10% or fewer of cases when a doctor uses SRT treatments on the affected area in the days immediately following keloid removal surgery. So if you are wondering how to get rid of a keloid permanently, SRT may be the very answer you have been looking for. Talk to your keloid specialist about Superficial Radio Therapy before your next keloid removal treatment takes place.