A melanoma is a potentially very dangerous skin cancer that develops in pigment cells, so called melanocytes, in the skin. It can develop within a mole but can also develop in previously normal appearing skin. Therefore it is important that every change in a mole but also every new unusual looking pigmented lesion is examined by a doctor and preferably a dermatologist, especially when it is irregular in shape or colour, fast growing or appearing after the age of 40.
When a melanoma is suspected the lesion will be surgically removed and sent to a pathology laboratory for microscopic examination to confirm the diagnosis.
Further treatment will depend on the size of the melanoma.
Early diagnosis and treatment is essential because in early stages it is almost always curable, but in a later stage the cancer can spread to other parts of the body and can be fatal.
Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas
Basal cell carcinoma is the most frequent skin cancer. It is a low malignancy skin cancer that usually develops on the face (nose, cheeks, forehead) but it can develop anywhere on the body. It often appears as a red nodule with a slightly elevated border or as a crusts that does not heal, and it grows very slowly.
The malignant potential of basal cell carcinomas is very low and they almost never spread beyond the original tumor size so thery are not life threatening. But if allowed to grow they will require more extensive surgery possibly leaving more disfiguring scars.
Squamous cell carcinoma occur on all parts of the body but mainly on sun exposed areas and can develop in an untreated actinic keratosis. They typically appear as a scaly red patch that sometimes crusts or bleeds. Contrary to basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma can spread (metastasis), but luckily this is rare.
The diagnosis of basal cell – and squamous cell carcinoma is often suspected on clinical examination and the diagnosis will be confirmed by a skin biopsy which will be microscopically examined.
The treatment options for basal cell- and squamous cell carcinoma is mainly surgical and depending on type, size and location of the tumor. If necessary the patient will be referred to a hospital for treatment.