Skin cancer is by far the most common type of cancer, with more men and women diagnosed each year than breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers combined. The disease is slow growing and often free of any glaring symptoms, but it can become serious or life-threatening once it’s spread to other parts of the body.
The good news: skin cancer is highly preventable and almost always curable when caught and treated early. At CHI Saint Joseph Health, we offer the education you need to keep your skin safe, plus a full range of early detection tools and treatment options.
If you haven’t had a recent skin exam, or have noticed something suspicious, visit your primary care doctor. Your doctor can perform a thorough check-up and recommend any additional screenings, if needed.
Call 859.313.2255 to make your appointment today.
Skin cancer starts in the cells of the skin, especially in areas routinely exposed to the sun like the hands, face, neck, shoulders and arms. But it can also occur anywhere on the body. Skin cancer affects people of every age, race and skin tone, though those with fair skin, multiple sunburns during childhood or a family history of the disease are at an increased risk.
There are three main types of skin cancer. Basal and squamous cell cancers are the most common and strongly related to sun exposure. They are less likely to spread to other parts of the body and become life-threatening. Melanomas, which form in skin that produces pigments (moles, freckles and age spots), account for less than 1 percent of skin cancers, but can be far more dangerous if left alone.
Warning signs can vary by the type of skin cancer, but all usually appear as changes to your skin, such as new or unusual growths, changes in existing moles, scaly patches or sores that bleed.
Most skin cancers are caused by long-term or intense exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays, either from the sun or tanning beds. Daily use of an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen can reduce the risk of skin cancer by as much as 50 percent. Wear hats and long, protective clothing during the sun’s strongest hours, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
It’s also crucial to catch skin cancer early, when treatment is usually very successful. Checking your skin regularly may help you find any new or abnormal growths to share with your doctor before they ever have a chance to become cancer. Learn a simple “ABCDE rule” to spot common signs of melanoma.
CHI Saint Joseph Health also recommends annual skin exams with a health care professional, who can assess any concerns or changes in your skin and help create a personal prevention plan.
After examining your skin, your doctor may remove a small sample of tissue (skin biopsy) from any areas that look suspicious. You may also have imaging tests to examine nearby lymph nodes or an in-office procedure to remove a lymph node and test it for signs of cancer (sentinel lymph node biopsy).
If skin cancer is diagnosed, our specialists will use advanced CT scans or other X-ray tests to see if the cancer is spread and determine the best possible treatment plan.
If you find that you have skin cancer, rest assured you have some of the Commonwealth’s best experts by your side. Our dedicated team—including board-certified dermatologists, surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists and more specialists—work closely with you to create a personalized treatment plan. And you have access to leading skin cancer clinical trials, right here at home.
Surgery may be performed to remove the tumor, as well as some surrounding tissue to help ensure the skin cancer is eliminated. Nearby lymph nodes may also be removed if the cancer has spread there.
Chemotherapy is used to kill cancer cells with medicines delivered in varied cycles through either an IV or a pill. It is usually given if the melanoma has returned or spread. Whenever possible, CHI Saint Joseph Health uses newer medications that help minimize the side effects of chemotherapy.
Radiation therapy uses X-rays or electrons to shrink or kill cancer cells. The beams can be specifically directed at the part of the body where the cancer located.
Recent FDA-approved drug therapies help your own immune system fight the cancer. This treatment may be beneficial for patients with high-risk or advanced melanoma, and used along with surgery and/or chemotherapy.