What is skin cancer?
Skin cancer, like any other type of cancer in the body, is an overgrowth of a particular cell or part of the body. That cell or part continues to grow and may threaten other parts of the body if left alone and not treated. Some types of cancer in the body are very dangerous and grow rapidly, while others are less dangerous and grow slowly. Most cancers are named from the type of cell they originate or come from.
In the skin, there are many types of cells, basal cells, squamous cells, melanocytes and others. Each type of cell can grow out of control and make its own type of skin cancer. Usually Dr. Jennifer Janiga will need to do a biopsy (take a small piece of skin) and send it to the lab where they will look at it under the microscope and tell you exactly what type of skin cancer you have.
What are the signs of skin cancer?
The American Academy of Dermatology has this great list to help you screen your moles and growths for suspicious features. If you or a loved one has a lesion or mole with any of these features, please make an appointment with Dr. Jennifer Janiga.
- A is for asymmetry – if the lesion looks different on one side compared to the other
- B is for border – if the border is jagged
- C is for color – if the lesion has more than one color
- D is for diameter – if it is larger than a pencil head eraser
- E is for evolution – if the lesion is changing
What types of skin cancer are there?
The most common type of skin cancer is Basal Cell Carcinoma. This is from the basal cell layer of the skin. It is a very slow growing type of skin cancer that may need to be removed, but usually does not require chemotherapy or radiation except in very rare and severe cases. Most, if caught early, are treatable and do not cause problems long term.
The second most common type of skin cancer is Squamous Cell Carcinoma. This type is from the upper layers of the squamous skin. This is a faster growing cancer and can go inside the body and, in certain cases, may need chemotherapy and radiation, but most are caught early and require simple in-office surgical procedures to remove them in their entirety.
The form of skin cancer that most people have heard of is Melanoma. This type of skin cancer can be very dangerous and is from a cell called a melanocyte in the skin. This is the cell that makes pigment in our skin. If caught early these can be surgically removed in the office setting, but some are deep enough to require larger procedures in the hospital and may need special types of chemotherapy. Unfortunately, this type of skin cancer can be life threatening.
There are other more rare types of skin cancer such as merkel cell carcinoma and dermatofibrosarcoma. These can also be diagnosed with a biopsy in Dr. Jennifer Janiga’s office, and appropriate treatment will be decided then.
How do you treat skin cancer?
The treatment for skin cancer depends on the type that you have, but in general any incidence of skin cancer should be removed so the cancer does not continue to grow. This usually requires a procedure in Dr. Jennifer Janiga’s office and may require stitches. As discussed above, radiation and/or chemotherapy may need to be undertaken in certain instances. In special circumstances, light therapy or a cream can be used to treat skin cancer, but Dr. Jennifer Janiga would need to discuss that with you after you have your biopsy to confirm what type of skin cancer you have.
What do I do if I think I have skin cancer?
For more information, or to set up a consultation with dermatologist Dr. Jennifer Janiga for your Skin Cancer and Dermatology evaluation in our Reno dermatology office, please send us an email or call 775-398-4600.