Skin Cancer in Tampa and Spring Hill, FL
As the largest organ of the body, your skin is at the forefront of protecting you from harmful bacteria, viruses, airborne contaminants and other environmental substances. Unfortunately, your skin is also exposed to sunlight each and every day. Skin cancer is common amongst residents of Tampa, Spring Hill and surrounding towns in Florida because we live active, outdoor lifestyles. If you are diagnosed with skin cancer or suspect that you have skin cancer, the board-certified Otolaryngologist/Head and Neck Surgeons of Suncoast ENT Surgical Specialists have the expertise to provide proper diagnosis, as well as safe and effective treatment.
As the largest organ of the body, our skin protects us from extremes in temperature such as hot and cold, as well as the harmful effects of sunlight and infection. Because the skin protects the entire body, you should take steps to keep your skin healthy.
Skin is made up of two layers. There are several types of skin cells. The outer layer of skin cells is called the epidermis. The epidermis is made up of three types of cells. Squamous cells are flat, scaly cells on the surface of the skin. Round cells in the epidermis are called basal cells. Lastly, the cells that give skin pigment and protect the skin from damage are called melanocytes. The inner layer of skin is called the dermis. The dermis contains the skin’s blood vessels, sweat glands, and nerves.
What is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer is when cancerous (malignant) cells are found in the outer layer of skin. The most frequently found type of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma, which is found in about 70% of skin cancers. The next most frequently found skin cancer is squamous cell carcinoma, which is found in about 20% of all skin cancers. Melanoma, which is the most deadly form of skin cancer, is a much less frequently found type of cancer.
Types of Skin Cancer
- Basal cell carcinoma: (cancerous tumor) looks like a small raised bump that may have a pearl-like appearance. Basal cell carcinoma is most frequently found in areas of excessive sun exposure, such as the nose. This cancer spreads to the surrounding areas of skin, but not to the rest of the body.
- Squamous cell carcinomas: are also usually found in the skin in parts of the body that are frequently exposed to the sun. Both basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas can be found on the nose, forehead, hands and upper lip. A squamous cell carcinoma usually looks like a firm red bump that doesn’t heal. Squamous cells are dangerous because they can spread to the lymph nodes, which in turn can spread the cancer to the rest of your body.
- Melanoma: is a skin cancer that shows up in the coloring of the skin. They appear as moles or other types of lesions in the skin. A melanoma will have an irregular shape, irregular borders, or a variety of colors to the spot. Melanomas are the most dangerous types of skin cancers because they can spread to the lymph nodes and to other parts of the body if left untreated. Thankfully, melanomas are easily treated when they are discovered early and treated right away.
What Causes Skin Cancer?
During your consultation, our ENT specialists explain the various causes of skin cancer. Most skin cancers occur in parts of the body that receive the most sun exposure. Scientists believe that UV radiation also causes skin cancers. If you have light skin, you are more likely to develop a skin cancer. Family history is another factor. If your parents or grandparents had skin cancer, you are more likely to contract it as well.
How is Skin Cancer Diagnosed?
While the word “cancer” is cause for concern, most skin cancers can be treated successfully if they are caught in the early stages. By being aware of your skin and having a doctor look at changes in your skin, you may be able to save your life.
Some of the early signs of skin cancer are:
- Skin sores that don’t heal
- Bumps in the skin that are getting larger
- Moles that change shape
If you notice any changes such as these in your skin, contact Suncoast ENT Surgical Specialists for an examination. We can decide what further actions need to be taken. Any spots on the skin can usually be dealt with on the spot at our office. Local anesthetic is used, and the doctor will examine the suspicious tissue under a microscope for an immediate diagnosis. This procedure is called a biopsy.
How is Skin Cancer Treated?
Suncoast ENT Surgical Specialists are experts in the most advanced treatments for skin cancer. The type of treatment used will be determined by you and your doctor depending on the type of skin cancer you have and your general health. Some of your choices may be surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
Surgery is the most often used method of skin cancer treatment. Surgery for skin cancer removal is usually done in the doctor’s office using a local anesthetic. Your doctor will remove the lesion until all of the edges of the area are cancer free. Mohs surgery is the type of procedure that is usually used because it gives the best results. Mohs surgery removes the cancerous skin while causing the least damage to the area being excised. If the area being removed is large, skin may be removed from another part of the body and placed in the surgical area to promote healing of the area. The area is then repaired with tiny stitches. If you have a melanoma, your lymph nodes (located in your underarms) may also be tested for cancer, to see if the melanoma has spread. This procedure is called a sentinel lymph node biopsy. If you have a non-melanoma skin cancer, no chemotherapy is needed. If you have a melanoma, you may need to have chemotherapy and immune system drugs if the melanoma has progressed. Radiation therapy may also be chosen to treat skin cancer, depending on the situation.
Am I At Risk for Skin Cancer?
The risk factors for skin cancer are:
- Long-term exposure to the sun
- Fair, light colored skin
- Blonde or red hair with freckles
- Living in southern climates
- Having moles
- Using tanning devices
- History of severe sunburns
- Presence of non-healing lesions or nodules in the skin
If you have lesions or moles on your skin, you should have them examined by a doctor. Finding skin cancer early gives you the best chance of curing skin cancer.
How Can I Lower My Risk of Skin Cancer?
The one most crucial thing you can do to reduce your risk of skin cancer is to reduce your exposure to direct sunlight and UV radiation. Direct exposure to sun exposes the skin to ultraviolet radiation, also known as UV rays. UV rays cause direct damage to skin cells. If you work outdoors in the sun, you are at higher risk of developing skin cancer. If you work outdoors between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. you are at the most risk of developing skin cancer, because the sun is at its strongest at this time. If you must work outdoors during these hours, use a sunscreen and cover your skin as much as possible. Wear long sleeves and a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face, scalp, neck and ears from the damaging rays of the mid-day sun. Use a strong sunscreen to protect the areas of skin that must be exposed. Monitor your skin for changes and report them to your doctor right away if they occur. Early detection is the key to catching and curing skin cancer.
The prognosis for treatment of skin cancer relies on early diagnosis and effective treatment. If you suspect that you have skin cancer, contact our Tampa or Spring Hill office to schedule a consultation.