Saturday, January 14, 2006

cancer, skin

The skin is the most frequent site of carcinoma. Fortunately, skin cancer is not usually life-threatening since the lesions can be detected when they are still small and more readily curable. The incidence of skin cancer increases with age, partly due to the cumulative effects of a lifetime exposure to the sun and the elements, such as winds. Chronically exposed areas such as the forehead, hands, and nose are commonly affected.
Symptoms of skin cancer include sores or ulcers that do not heal, and sudden changes in color, size, and texture of moles, warts, or birthmarks.
Basal-cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. This is a slow growing carcinoma, locally invasive, with little tendency to metastasize. The most common type of basal cell carcinoma begins as a small, smooth, rounded, pearly or waxy looking papule with telangiectatic (dilated, tortous) vessels on the surface.
These tumors may be treated by curettage and electrodesiccation, surgical excision, irradiation, or topical chemotherapy. In the vast number of patients the cure rate is 95 percent or better.
Squamous-cell carcinomas of the skin are found less frequently than basal cell carcinomas but are more likely to metastasize. This type of cancer is found on chronically sun-damaged skin of the backs of the hands, arms, ears, neck, and face. Surgical excision is the most common form of treatment. Those with skin cancers should be cautioned to avoid, as much as possible, further sun exposure. Sunscreens, long-sleeved shirts, and wide-brimmed hats are encouraged when the person is outdoors.
Steinberg, F. U. Care of the Geriatric Patient, 6th ed. St. Louis: C. V. Mosby Co., 1983.


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