Skin Cancer: Types, Symptoms, & Treatments Explained

skin cancer
30 May, 2021

Skin cancer occurs when skin cells start to grow abnormally; it usually develops on those areas of skin that are regularly exposed to the sun. However, it can also occur on areas that rarely see the sunlight.

Before we discuss more, let’s first read a few alarming facts about skin cancer.

In the US alone, skin cancer kills more than 2 people every hour.

At least 1 in 5 Americans likely develop skin cancer by the age of 70.

It is the most common cancer in the US and worldwide.


Still, your risk of skin cancer can be controlled if you avoid exposure to UV radiation and often check for any of its signs. By noticing suspicious or unwanted changes on your skin, one can detect skin cancer at an early stage, which increases the chances for better results of its treatment. This means you should be aware of these changes to detect it as early as possible, or at least before it grows uncontrollably.

Common Signs and Symptoms

Skin cancer symptoms vary with its type, and it is divided into three major types.

Basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma most often occurs in areas of your body that are easily exposed to the sun, like the face and neck. It may appear as:

A bump seeming pearly or waxy

Bleeding or scabbing sore that returns every few days after healing 

A flat lesion (that looks like a scar occurring without any external damage)

Squamous cell carcinoma

This is another type of cancer that generally occurs on sun-exposed areas of skin, including hands, face, and ears. It may appear as:

A flat lesion with a scaly-looking surface

A firm, red nodule


This cancer can occur on any area of your skin or in an existing mole. It usually appears on the trunk or face in men, while it more often develops on the lower legs in women.

Regardless of skin tone and gender, Melanoma can develop on skin never exposed to the sun. However, it tends to form on the palm or sole or beneath the fingernails or toenails in people with darker skin.

Its signs include:

  • A large brownish spot
  • A mole that changes in color/size or bleeds
  • A small lesion that appears red, pink, white, blue, or blue-black
  • A painful or itchy lesion that gives a burning sensation

Besides, you should also know various risk factors that can increase your chances of developing skin cancer. Let’s discuss them in brief.

  • Exposure to UV light
  • People with fair skin and hazel/blue eyes and those with red or blond hair are more vulnerable than others
  • The problem can be worse for people living in high elevation areas or near the equator as there, the exposure to sunlight is a little more intense
  • Exposure to ionizing radiation (X-rays)
  • Exposure to chemicals (e.g., arsenic) (which can cause damage to skin that can lead to cancer)
  • Specific types of sexually acquired wart virus infections

Once signs are identified and cancer is diagnosed correctly and early, doctors can give on-time treatment to cure skin cancer. Several types of procedures are used to cure cancer, and the choice of treatment depends upon various factors mentioned below.

  1. Location and size of the tumor, 
  2. Microscopic characteristics of the cancer
  3. Patient’s general health conditions

Types of Skin Cancer Treatment

Topical treatments

Patients can use medical gels and creams to treat superficial basal cell carcinomas. For example, creams that contain imiquimod, which works as a stimulator for your immune system, enabling it to produce interferon (a type of signaling protein that fights cancer growth).

While many patients do not complain of any side effects of topical medications, some may experience redness, irritation, or inflammation.

EDC - destruction by electrodessication and curettage

EDC starts with numbing the cancerous area of the skin using a local anesthetic; doctors then use a curette (a sharp medical instrument) to scrape the site. The direct advantage of this medical procedure is easier, inexpensive, and takes less time than other treatment methods.

Surgical excision

In this, the initial step is the same as for EDC. Then, a ball-shaped portion of cancerous tissue is removed, and the wound edges are closed using sutures. Additionally, at the patient’s request, doctors may also feather the edges using an electrode, making the scar less noticeable. 

While it is a little complicated and costlier than EDC, there is a greater than 90% cure rate.

Mohs micrographic surgery

The cancer-affected skin area is locally anesthetized, and a surgeon removes the visible tumor along with a tiny portion of normal tissue. Immediately after that, they evaluate the tissue under a microscope; here, if the areas demonstrate the involvement of residual tumor, they re-excise the areas then re-examine the margins. This process continues in a cycle until the tumor is completely removed.

This treatment procedure is used for:

  • Cancer cases with absolute need to preserve normal tissues
  • Cases where the tumor margins are not defined correctly
  • Tumors previously treated but have recurred
  • Some high-risk tumors

Radiation Therapy

Under this method, medical professionals deliver a high dose of radiation to the tumor, including a minimal surrounding area, and it takes ten to fifteen treatment sessions. Radiation therapy is helpful for those who are not comfortable undergoing a surgical procedure, which is one of its advantages – no cuts involved.

Nevertheless, it too has disadvantages; it is difficult to test, determine, and ensure that the tumor is removed completely or not. In some cases, radiation scars may look worse over time.

Some other types of skin cancer treatment are:

  • Cryosurgery – used to destroy the cancerous tissue by freezing
  • PDT – photodynamic therapy – used to destroy the tissue using blue light and medication
  • Laser surgery – used to vaporize (ablate) the top layer of the skin and destroy lesions 
  • Oral medications

For better results of skin cancer treatment, early diagnosis is vital. If you notice any small unfamiliar changes on your skin, you are advised to see a skin doctor. Find the best and most reliable medical professionals and specialists at Central Valley Medical Providers. 

Feel free to discuss your medical requirements; talk to one of our customer service representatives at (877) 216-4215/local: 559.450.6334. To schedule a consultation, call us now!