About the Condition
Non-melanoma cancers are one of the most common types of skin cancers in the world. This sort of cancer occurs when the genetic material of cells in the skin become damaged or changed, producing mutations that affect normal cell growth and division. The abnormal cells then replicate, causing cancer, usually in the form of lumps and lesions on the skin. If undetected, the cancer can spread beyond the skin and move to other parts of the body. Non-melanoma skin cancer affects slightly more men than women, though the reasons for this are unclear.
Non-melanoma skin cancers include two main types:
- Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), also known as a Rodent Ulcer
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
Malignant non-melanoma skin cancers are frequently associated with over-exposure to Ultraviolet (UV) rays with limited protection. It has been proven that repeated sunburn, either by the sun or artificial sources of light, will make your skin more vulnerable to non-melanoma skin cancer. There are also a number of other risk factors linked to the development of non-melanoma, which include:
- Having a family history of non-melanoma skin cancer
- Having pale skin that does not tan easily
- Having red or blonde hair
- Having blue eyes
- Entering old age
- Having a large number of moles
- Having a large number of freckles
- Having an area of skin previously damaged by burning or radiotherapy treatment
- Having a condition that suppresses your immune system, such as HIV
- Taking medicines that suppress your immune system (immunosuppressants), commonly used after organ transplants
- Previous exposure to certain chemicals, such as creosote and arsenic
- A previous diagnosis of skin cancer
The first sign of non-melanoma skin cancer is usually the presence of a lump or patch on the skin that doesn't heal after a few weeks. The appearance of these symptoms varies, but can include:
- A red, firm lump
- A flat, scaly patch
If any of these symptoms apply to you, or if you have any concerns about similar symptoms, it is essential that you see your doctor at once, as your chances of recovery are much higher if your cancer is diagnosed early.
If you’re referred to CCL for diagnosis, your consultant or oncologist will advise you on which tests are relevant to your individual symptoms. Diagnosis of malignant non-Melanoma skin cancer is done by clinical evaluation, which involves:
- A thorough physical inspection of the involved area
- A biopsy, where a small sample of the affected area is removed so that it can be studied under a microscope to check for signs of cancer
At CCL, patients with malignant non-melanoma skin cancers are treated by a team of different specialists, called a Multi-Disciplinary Team, or MDT. This team works together to create a treatment plan to suit the individual needs of the patient. Surgery is the main treatment option for skin cancers. Non-melanoma skin cancer is also treated by:
- Radiotherapy, where high-energy rays are used to destroy the cancer cells
- Cryotherapy, which involves using extreme cold temperatures to treat benign tumours by killing abnormal cells
- Photodynamic therapy (PDT), which is a technique for treating skin cancers and sun-damaged skin, where a special light activates a cream which has been applied to the affected area of skin, killing the abnormal cells in the skin
Cancer doesn’t just leave a physical impact on an individual, but that it can have a huge emotional effect as well. Cancer and its treatment can be overwhelming, causing a wide variety of emotions, and it is important to remember that there is no right or wrong response. Reactions vary hugely from person to person, and most people find that it becomes easier to cope when they’re given additional support, so that’s what we do.
At CCL we provide support both physically and emotionally before, during and after treatment. We offer a wide range of services for patients, as well as their loved ones, designed to make a very difficult time as easy as possible, and to give our patients the best treatment and support possible.
Because any scarring you may get after treatment is external and visible, you may develop concerns about self-esteem, body image and recurrence. We are here to offer you all the support you need.
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