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With this week being National Skin Cancer Action Week, leading skin cancer treatment network GenesisCare provides some of the latest information on treating non-melanoma skin cancer.
Skin cancers account for the largest number of newly diagnosed cancers in Australia each year, with incidence of skin cancers being one of the highest in the world. (1)
Skin cancer occurs when skin cells change into abnormal cells and grow at an uncontrolled rate.
There are three main types of skin cancer:
- basal cell carcinoma
- squamous cell carcinoma
- melanoma - the most dangerous form of skin cancer
Both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are known as non-melanoma skin cancer or keratinocyte cancers. Non-melanoma skin cancer is more common in men. (1)
What is non-melanoma skin cancer?
Non-melanoma skin cancers start in the top layer of the skin, called the epidermis, and is often related to sun exposure. There are two main types of non-melanoma skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, depending on the type of skin cells affected. About two thirds of non-melanoma skin cancers are basal cell carcinomas. (1)
What are some of the treatment options for non-melanoma skin cancer?
Non-melanoma skin cancer can be treated in several ways, some of which include:
Topical treatments: creams and gels containing chemotherapy or immunotherapy can be applied directly to the skin to destroy the cancerous cells.
Curettage and electrodessication: a procedure of scraping away the cancerous cells and destroying the remaining cancer cells with an electric needle.
Surgery: involves cutting out the cancerous area. Sometimes some surrounding tissue is also removed.
Radiation therapy: uses measured doses of radiation directed to specific parts of the skin to stop the growth of abnormally dividing cells. Radiation therapy may be suitable if you have a large area to treat, if topical treatments are not appropriate or effective, or if surgery is not a suitable option for you.
Meet John - taking care of a kidney transplant patient
Seventy-three-year-old Rockhampton resident John has a long history of working many hours outside with no skin protection. Being red haired and fair skinned, his sensitivity to the sun has also always been heightened, and potentially led to more extensive damage over the years.
When John began to feel very unwell in March 2014, he visited his GP who ran lots of tests. A diagnosis of end-stage kidney disease rocked John's world.
After undergoing a transplant in 2018, John began taking great care of his skin as there is an increased risk of skin cancers in people who have undergone transplants due to the immunosuppressive drugs they need to take. (2)
After many years of trying topical creams, such as Efudex, and undergoing minor surgeries to cut out small areas, John was referred to GenesisCare, Rockhampton by a skin specialist at his local GP practice.
Having reached a point referred to as 'surgical fatigue', GenesisCare's radiation oncologist Dr Tuan Ha discussed new radiation therapy options for treating the non-melanomas on John's arms, legs, and face.
Dr Ha said that with the advances in radiation therapy to include wide-field techniques, it is possible to treat large areas at the same time. (3)
"And because this treatment is less invasive than surgery, patients can generally resume regular day-to-day activities in less time," he said.
GenesisCare provides a tailored approach to treatment and takes into consideration a range of factors before deciding if radiation therapy is right for a patient.
Its doctors and healthcare team work with patients to determine which treatment is most suitable. This will depend on several factors including the part of your body that is affected, the size of the cancer, potential side effects and what the patient wishes to achieve from treatment.
For more information visit the GenesisCare website www.newface.genesiscare.com , email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone on 1800 314430
1. Australian Government. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2016. Skin caner in Australia. Cat no. CAN96. Available at: www.aihw.gov.au/reports/cancer/skin-cancer-in-australia. Accessed on: 17/11/21.
2. De Rosa N, et al. JAMA derm 2019; 155.6: 716-719.
3. Willenbrink T, et al. J Am Acad Dermatol 2020; 83(3):709-717.
DISCLAIMER: Any medical procedure or treatment involving the use of radiation carries risks, including skin irritation and associated pain. Before proceeding with treatment, you should discuss the risks and benefits of the treatment with an appropriately qualified health practitioner. Individual treatment outcomes and experiences will vary.
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