Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States and is most often associated with sun or ultraviolet ray (UV) exposure. However, skin cancer can form on parts of the skin not always exposed to the sun.
The skin is the largest organ of the body. Its functions include protecting organs, controlling body temperature, informing the body about outside conditions, and protecting parts of the body from damaging UV rays.
Because skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, doctors should be able to detect and diagnose skin cancer in its early stages. If doctors act negligently in the diagnostic process, they put their patients at risk for further and possibly permanent injury. Despite a common misperception skin cancer can be deadly if not caught early.
If your skin cancer has been mishandled by a health care provider, contact our offices today for a free consultation.
Types of Skin Cancer
There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell is both the most common skin cancer and the overall most common of all cancer types. It is named after the shape of the cells that resemble the cells in the basal skin layer, the lowest layer of the skin.
Basal cell carcinoma is most often found on sun-exposed areas of the skin, such as the face. It is a slow growing cancer and rarely spreads to other parts of the body. But, if left untreated, it may spread into surrounding tissue and bone. Having basal cell carcinoma put patients at risk for developing other types of skin cancers. Over 50%of patients with basal cell carcinoma develop another form of skin cancer within five years.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer. It is named for the shape of its cells that resemble irregular versions of squamous skin cells in the outer layer of the skin.
Squamous cell carcinoma is a slow-growing cancer and is common on skin with prolonged exposure to sun. It is more common for squamous cell carcinoma to spread to nearby tissue and other parts of the body than it is for basal cell cancer to spread.
Melanoma develops in the cells that create pigment in the skin, called melanocytes. Melanoma cancer cells are the most likely of the three major types of skin cancer to spread to other parts of the body, making it the most deadly.
Skin Cancer Statistics
- Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States.
- In the past three decades, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined.
- 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.
- Medical studies estimate that 5.4 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer were diagnosed in 2012 with3.3 million people diagnosed in the United States.
- Although skin cancer is generally more common in middle-aged people, studies indicate that basal and squamous cell carcinoma rates are increasing in people under 40.
- An estimated 137,310 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in 2015.
- Rates of melanoma in the United States doubled from 1982 to 2011.
- Nearly 75% of skin cancer-related deaths are attributable to melanoma.
- Nearly 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers are attributable to ultraviolet radiation (UV) exposure from the sun.
- More people will develop skin cancer from tanning than develop lung cancer from smoking cigarettes.
Symptoms and Risk Factors
With the high prevalence of skin cancer, your doctor should know the possible risk factors associated with the different types of skin cancer, and should be able to act quickly to screen and diagnose these cancers as soon as symptoms appear.
Risk factors of skin cancer include:
- Excessive sun exposure, or other high exposure to ultraviolet radiation like tanning beds
- Fair skin; the less pigment in the skin, the greater the risk of developing skin cancer
- History of bad sunburns
- Personal or family history of skin cancer
- Weakened immune system
- Exposure to radiation
- Exposure to certain chemicals such as arsenic
- Being male, and being over 40 years old- men have a higher risk of some types of skin cancer, and most skin cancer cases occur in people over 40
Symptoms of skin cancer will depend on the type of cancer involved. Symptoms for the three major types of skin cancer include:
- A waxy bump with visible blood vessels. The bump may bleed or develop a crust.
- A scaly brown patch of skin on the back or chest
- A rough, dome-shaped bump that may bleed
- A sore that won't heal, or keeps returning
The main symptoms or warning signs of melanoma involve the growth or change of spots on the skin. Doctors should look for a change in shape, size or color of spots. Doctors have developed an ABCDE rule for detecting possible sites of melanoma on the skin. According to the American Cancer Society, these rules are:
A is for Asymmetry: One-half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
B is for Border: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
C is for Color: The color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
D is for Diameter: The spot is larger than 6 millimeters across (about ¼ inch – the size of a pencil eraser), although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this.
E is for Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape, or color.
Diagnosing Skin Cancer
If you are at risk for skin cancer or show signs of skin cancer, your doctor should begin screening and testing for the disease. The doctor will first look for signs of abnormal moles or for growths and spots on the skin. If your doctor finds abnormalities on the skin, she or he may order a blood or bone marrow sample to look for cancerous cells. Doctors may also order radiographic studies to locate cancer or to see if the cancer has spread (metastasized) to other areas of your body.
Skin Cancer Treatment
Treatments for skin cancer will depend on the type, location, and stage of the cancer. Doctors may surgically remove growths, or use radiation or chemotherapy to destroy cancer cells.
Lawsuits For Skin Cancer Cases Malpractice In Maryland
Most skin cancers have high survival and recovery rates if the cancer is caught early and treated appropriately. But, these rates quickly decrease as the cancer advances. While an advanced skin cancer diagnosis is not an automatic cause for a malpractice case, there are times when doctors act negligently in the screening and diagnostic process, which can cause unnecessary injury and even irreparable injury that may give rise to a medical malpractice claim.
Since skin cancer is so common in the United States, your doctor should be aware of the risk factors and the signs and symptoms of skin cancer so that a diagnoses can be timely made. If you are over 40 or at a high risk, your doctor should be especially vigilant in his/her screening and management of your condition.
Negligently failing to order necessary screening and diagnostic tests, failing to read the test results properly, or failing to follow up with the patient may be grounds for a malpractice case.
Attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian are skilled in medical malpractice cases and the misdiagnosis of skin cancer cases. We have a licensed physician on staff so that your case can be assessed and litigated with unparalleled diligence and focus.
If you beleive that you or a loved one's skin cancer has been mishandled by a health care provider, contact the offices of Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation. You may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, disability, and emotional and physical suffering, among other damages.