Nonmelanoma skin cancer is one of the most curable cancers. The 5-year survival rate is excellent if a proper treatment plan is executed at an early stage.
Is Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer A Disability & Can You Die From It?
People can die from Nonmelanoma skin cancer if timely treatment is not carried out and the disease is left untreated. When not treated cancer can spread to surrounding tissues and other areas/parts of the body. It is not disabling if diagnosed early and treatment is started. Treatment side effects may cause some fatigue and tiredness. If surgery is done, you may have to take rest for a day or days depending on the anesthesia used. (1)
The nonmelanoma skin cancer is primarily of two types, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. Both two forms have excellent long-term survival chances. If you are suffering from basal cell carcinoma, the 5-year survival rate is 100% and that for squamous cell carcinoma is 95%. Early detection and the start of treatment are essential for both cases. To differentiate them definitively, a biopsy is sometimes necessary. Nonmelanoma skin cancers usually grow slowly. (2)
The majority of skin cancer cases result from long-term, prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds or lamps. Thus, this type of cancer usually sits on parts of the body exposed to UV rays such as the face, neck, and back of the hands.
Often the precancerous skin lesion looks like a wart or eczema plaque. The skin becomes slightly rough to the touch and sometimes appears a small sore, especially by scratching. If you experience such symptoms, seek medical advice immediately. Do not underestimate any skin lesion that is not healing even after 4 weeks of topical treatment.
Tests And Diagnosis For Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer
When you to the doctor for a skin lesion, he will begin by assessing the severity of the change in the skin. If your doctor is not sure that the lesion is benign, he will refer the patient to a specialist, usually a dermatologist.
If the specialist suspects skin cancer, he will take a small piece of tissue, usually under local anesthesia for biopsy. If he thinks it may be melanoma or if there are signs that it is skin cancer, he will most often remove the tumor altogether.
In the laboratory, a pathologist will examine the sample of removed tissue under a microscope. This way it will be possible to be sure of the nature of the lesion. If it is cancer, the pathologist can also at the same time determine what form of skin cancer it is. (3)
Treatment For Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer
Cancer of the skin can be treated in different ways. Treatment will depend on the type of cancer, the location, and size of the tumor, and the age of the patient. In the first place, the treatment must give the best possible results with regard to healing. The visible scars will eventually be corrected. (4) (5)
Surgery: During operation, the surgeon removes the tumor entirely, sometimes under local anesthesia. General anesthesia may be necessary when the tumor is particularly extensive or has developed deep under the skin. In the laboratory, the pathologist checks whether the surgeon has removed the entire tumor. Sometimes an extensive operation is essential to eliminate the entire tumor. It may happen that the surgical wound does not close immediately, because it was necessary to remove a large amount of skin. A skin graft is then taken from elsewhere on the body.
Radiotherapy: Irradiation of cutaneous tumors is done using rays that destroy the tumor cells. Healthy cells are also exposed to radiation, but they are able to repair themselves. The patient notices practically nothing following the treatment. The process will not make you very sick. It can sometimes cause fatigue or discoloration of the skin. The tumor is irradiated a number of times, usually three to ten times, sometimes more. After the treatment, only a small scar remains.
Cryotherapy: This method of cold destruction is used in case of actinic keratosis or if there are several small superficial skin tumors.
Photodynamic Therapy: Photodynamic therapy is a treatment that makes abnormal or malignant skin cells extremely sensitive to visible light. These cells are then exposed to light, which kills them. After a few weeks, new healthy skin cells take their place.
Electrocoagulation: Skin tumors can sometimes be burned like warts, usually by means of an electric current.
Local Chemotherapy: In the case of superficial basal cell carcinoma or actinic keratosis, it is sometimes possible to apply a cream locally that has the effect of curbing cell multiplication or killing cells. In general, this cream is applied locally twice a day for about three weeks.
Immunotherapy: In case of superficial basal cell carcinoma or actinic keratosis, it is sometimes also possible to use for a few weeks a cream containing a substance that stimulates the immune system, to help eliminate cancer cells.
- Ersser SJ, Effah A, Dyson J, et al. Effectiveness of interventions to support the early detection of skin cancer through skin self‐examination: a systematic review and meta‐analysis. British Journal of Dermatology. 2019;180(6):1339-1347.
- Batz S, Wahrlich C, Alawi A, Ulrich M, Lademann J. Differentiation of different nonmelanoma skin cancer types using oct. Skin pharmacology and physiology. 2018;31(6):238-245.
- MacFarlane D, Shah K, Wysong A, Wortsman X, Humphreys TR. The role of imaging in the management of patients with nonmelanoma skin cancer: diagnostic modalities and applications. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2017;76(4):579-588.
- Goyal N, Thatai P, Sapra B. Skin cancer: symptoms, mechanistic pathways and treatment rationale for therapeutic delivery. Therapeutic delivery. 2017;8(5):265-287.
- Queen L. Skin Cancer: Causes, Prevention, and Treatment. 2017.