Monday, May 2, 2011

Melanoma Monday

May 2, 2011

Cancer awareness can be seen everywhere.  If you see something pink, you almost always think of breast cancer.   See smoke, you think of lung cancer.  Men worry about prostate cancer.  Cancer is a subject that weighs heavily on people's minds and hearts.  Nearly everyone has a friend, family member or neighbor that has either experienced cancer, or knows someone who has.   Organizations across the world hold numerous fund raisers to aid in finding a cure.  However, something you may not know, the number one form of cancer is skin cancer.  There are over 1 million new cases every year!   It has also been estimated that nearly half of all Americans who live to age 65 will develop skin cancer at least once.

The most common warning sign of skin cancer is a change in the appearance of the skin, such as a new growth or a sore that will not heal.

Risk factors for developing skin cancer:
·       exposure to sun;
·       age ( usually appears after age 50, however the damage begins early in life);
·       fair skin;
·       exposure to ultraviolet radiation such as tanning beds;
·       therapeutic radiation such as radiation treatment for other cancer; and
·       weak immune system either by disease or medication.

Diagnosis:
·       once a growth or sore is noticed, your doctor will perform a biopsy which is done by taking a scraping of the area.  The shaved cells are then examined under a microscope to determine if there are any cancerous cells.

Treatment:
·       There are several different methods for treating skin cancer, it depends on the size and location, so each treatment plan is individualized for the best possible method.
·       Curettage and desiccation: Dermatologists often prefer this method, which consists of scooping out the basal cell carcinoma by using a spoon like instrument called a curette. Desiccation is the additional application of an electric current to control bleeding and kill the remaining cancer cells. The skin heals without stitching. This technique is best suited for small cancers in non-crucial areas such as the trunk and extremities.
·       Surgical excision.
·       Radiation Therapy.
·       Cryosurgy using liquid nitrogen and freezing the area.
·       Medication therapy using creams.

Prevention:
·       limiting recreational sun exposure;
·       avoiding unprotected exposure to the sun during peak radiation times (the hours surrounding noon);
·       wearing broad-brimmed hats and tightly-woven protective clothing while outdoors in the sun;
·       Use sunscreen;
·       Regular check-ups and report any suspicious skin changes; and
·       Avoid using tanning beds.

As my daddy says, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Use common sense while outdoors, however if you do notice new or unusual changes in you skin, seek treatment quickly.  There is a 90% chance of full recovery.

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