Early detection and treatment essential for skin cancer

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Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, with more than 4 million cases of basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma – both of which are non-melanoma skin cancers – diagnosed each year. Fortunately, with early detection and treatment, the results tend to be good.

Dr Meredith McKean, Associate Director of the Melanoma and Skin Cancer Research Program at the Sarah Cannon Research Institute, recently discussed basal cell carcinoma and cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma during a presentation at the CURE® Educated Patient Skin Cancer Summit .

“We know that for these two types of skin cancer, the main treatment is surgical resection, and it’s curative,” McKean said.

Skin cancers are commonly found during annual check-ups with a primary care physician or dermatologist. If a suspicious spot is noticed on the patient’s skin, the patient may be referred for a biopsy to determine if it is cancerous.

“It’s really important that all adults can go (to their doctor) once a year and have their skin checked, because we know that if we can remove the tumor and remove all these cells, the long-term results afterwards. a diagnosis of basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma are very good, ”McKean said. “The earlier it is diagnosed, the smaller the lesion, the easier the surgical removal and the lower the risk of the cancer coming back. “

Once a patient is diagnosed with basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma, it is important that they continue to have regular skin exams, as are family members, who likely share risk factors, such as discoloration. skin, sun exposure and lifestyle.

The earliest stage of basal cell carcinoma can be treated with superficial therapy (on top of the skin). Additionally, if a patient does not want surgery as a first line of treatment, or if the skin cancer is too large or too deep to be completely removed, they may undergo radiation therapy.

If necessary, patients may also undergo adjuvant (post-operative) radiation therapy, receive an immunotherapy agent, or participate in a clinical trial.

Finally, in advanced cancers that are not eligible for surgery and / or has spread, a doctor may prescribe a targeted therapeutic agent (which finds and blocks certain pathways in cancer cells), chemotherapy, immunotherapy (which helps the immune system fight cancer) or consider a clinical trial.

Hedgehog pathway inhibitors are also used to treat basal cell carcinoma. These block the hedgehog signaling pathway, which controls cell division, in the hope that the cancer cells do not multiply.

“I think for future treatments we could end up using these drugs even earlier and say, ‘(For) patients who can have surgery, can we make it easier for them? McKean said.

As new treatments continue to be studied, McKean said the best way to ensure good results is through prevention and early detection.

“Prevention starts at a young age with sunscreen and sun health,” she said. “And the earlier these tumors are diagnosed, the better the chances of survival.”

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