Skin cancer can develop on any part of the body that receives frequent sun exposure – the scalp, lips, ears, neck, chest, arms and hands, for instance. One of the areas most prone to skin cancer is the face. It can affect people of all skin tones, including individuals with darker complexions.
What Are the Types of Skin Cancer?
Facial skin cancer is divided into three different types:
- Basal cell carcinomas affect the face, ears and scalp, and are characterized by a pearly, waxy bump; a flat, flesh-colored lesion; or a brown scar-like lesion.
- Squamous cell carcinomas are most typically found on the face, lips and ears. Signs include a firm, reddish nodule and a flat lesion with a scaly or crusted surface.
- Melanomas can occur anywhere, but are commonly found on the head or neck. Symptoms of facial melanoma include a mole that changes size or color, or bleeds; a brownish spot with dark speckles; a lesion with an irregular border and parts that appear red, blue, blue-black or white; and dark lesions on the mucous membranes lining the nose and mouth.
There are a few other facial skin cancers that are more rare. Look for red or purple patches on the skin or mucous membranes; firm, shiny nodules in the hair follicles or just beneath the skin; or hard, painless nodules on the eyelids or other parts of the face.
Make an appointment with Blue Ridge ENT if you notice any change to your skin that appear abnormal.
What Causes Skin Cancer?
Facial skin cancer is the result of mutations in the skin cells that cause them to grow out of control. The biggest risk factor for skin cancer is ultraviolet radiation from sunlight and tanning beds. Those with fair skin, a history of sunburns and excessive sun exposure, moles or a family history of skin cancer are more prone to developing it.
How Skin Cancer Be Prevented?
The best way to prevent skin cancer is to avoid prolonged exposure to the sun, particularly between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when ultraviolet light is at its peak. Use plenty of sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, and wear hats, long-sleeved shirts and pants. Be on the lookout for any changes to your skin, particularly suspicious-looking moles. If you’re older than 40, have a professional examine your skin once a year.
How Do You Test for Skin Cancer?
A skin biopsy is most often performed to diagnose skin cancer, but may also be used to diagnose certain skin disorders or infection. A biopsy is a diagnostic procedure where skin cells are removed, processed and examined.
Skin samples are obtained by either shaving, “punching” or excising the lesion. You should follow the doctor’s instructions and care for the wound as you would any other to avoid infection. A pathologist will then examine the sample under a microscope to determine your condition.
How Is Skin Cancer Treated?
Treatment for skin cancer depends on the type, size and location of the cancer, as well as the patient’s overall health.
Small lesions limited to the surface of the skin can often be removed with a simple skin biopsy. Other superficial skin cancers detected early can often be removed by freezing with liquid nitrogen or vaporizing with laser therapy. Excisional surgery, or Mohs surgery for larger growths, can also be effective in cutting out cancer without causing damage to the surrounding skin.
When surgery isn’t an option, radiation therapy may be recommended. Chemotherapy involves the use of creams or lotions that contain cancer-killing drugs applied directly to the skin, and is especially effective in cancers that are confined to the top layer of skin. For cancers that have spread to other parts of the body, systemic chemotherapy is often effective.
Call Blue Ridge ENT at (828) 264-4545 for more information or to schedule an appointment.