Skin cancer develops usually on the parts of the skin which get maximum sun exposure like the lips, scalp, chest, neck, ears, face, hands and arms and especially on the legs in women. The genital areas, the palms and the skin beneath the toenails and fingernails are places that seldom get exposed to the sun, but skin cancer can develop there too. It is characterized by the abnormal growth of skin cells.
Skin cancer on scalp does not discriminate. It affects people with darker complexions just as much as it affects those with fair complexions. Melanoma in people with dark skin tones usually develops in places that seldom see the light of day.
Symptoms of Skin Cancer on Scalp
Basal cell skin cancer, melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the three main types of skin cancer. The skin cancer type you are suffering from will determine the symptoms of skin cancer on scalp you get.
Basal cell skin cancer appears to be a pinkish bump that is ready to bleed. The center of it might be sunken inside and its blood vessels might have an irregular shape. There might be crusted areas that ooze in case of basal cell carcinomas.
Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer on scalp.It has a number of varying symptoms. It might appear as a simple mole which changes in feel, size or color or a large brown spot on skin having dark speckles. It might appear as a shiny dome-shaped bump or lesion having an irregular border and colored spots. These lesions can be tender to touch and itchy as well. It can be red too. Repetitive bleeding of abnormal skin growths are also a sign of melanoma on scalp.
Squamous cell carcinoma occurs mostly on those areas of the body that are exposed to the sun. It is characterized by flat lesions having a scaly or crusted surface or red nodules that are very firm.
Note: Although hairdressers can help you in checking the areas of your scalp that you cannot see for yourself, it is essential to meet up with a board-certified dermatologist and let him examine and screen you for any types of skin cancer.
Causes of Skin Cancer
Mutations in the DNA of skin cells usually cause skin cancer. The mutation kick starts an abnormal growth of cells which results in the formation of a mass of cancer cells. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation present in sunlight is largely responsible for causing the DNA damage in skin cells. However exposure to sunlight does not justify skin cancers that occur on areas of the skin that do not come in contact with sunlight. This suggests that there are other reasons that might result in the development of skin cancer too, for instance, exposure to toxic substances or suffering from an illness that makes you immune-compromised.
How to Deal With Skin Cancer on Scalp
Both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell skin cancer are treated using the same treatment methods. The size, location and depth of the scalp cancer and your general health condition decides the treatment you are given.
Any of the following treatments might be prescribed:
- Medication: Medicine containing skin creams.
- Excision: Removal of the skin cancer by cutting and sewing back the skin.
- Curettage and electrodessication: Scrape out the cancer cells and then kill the rest by using electricity.
- Cryosurgery: Killing the cancer cells by freezing them.
- Mohs surgery: Removal of skin layer by layer to eliminate the cancer. It is used for treating skin cancer on the face, ears and nose.
- Photodynamic therapy: Treatment that makes use of light.
- Radiation: Only used if the basal cell cancer is not treatable by surgery.
- Chemotherapy: Only used for treating basal cell cancer that has metastasized to other parts of the body and cannot be surgically removed.
Melanoma can only be treated with surgery. Removal of the skin cancer and its surrounding areas will have to be done. The depth of the melanoma decides the amount of the skin to be removed.
Treatment for melanoma that has metastasized is quite tricky. There is almost no chance of a cure. Treatment strategy used is to shrink the cancer and provide the patient as much relief as possible. The following treatments are usually prescribed:
- Chemotherapy: Drugs that kill cancer cells.
- Immunotherapy: Drugs like interleukin or interferon that boosts immune system for fighting the cancer. Used alongside surgery and chemotherapy.
- Radiation treatments: Used for relieving discomfort or pain because of spreading of cancer.
- Surgery: Removal of cancer that has metastasized only for reliving discomfort or pain.