Skin Cancer

Basic information about basal cell carcinoma and squamouscell carcinoma—two of the most common types of skin cancer.

The two most common kinds of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. (Carcinoma is cancer that begins in the cells that cover or line an organ.) Basal cell carcinoma accounts for more than 90 percent of all skin cancers in the United States. It is a slow-growing cancer that seldom spreads to other parts of the body. Squamous cell carcinoma also rarely spreads, but it does so more often than basal cell carcinoma. Regardless, it is important that skin cancers be found and treated early because they can invade and destroy nearby tissue.

Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are sometimes called nonmelanoma skin cancer. Another type of cancer that occurs in the skin is melanoma, which begins in the melanocytes. More information about this disease can be found in the cancer section of FamilyCare America’s online library.

Preparing for Treatment

Many people with cancer want to learn all they can about the disease and their treatment choices so they can take an active part in decisions about their medical care. When a person is diagnosed with cancer, shock and stress are natural reactions. These feelings may make it difficult to think of everything to ask the doctor. Often, it helps to make a list of questions. To help remember what the doctor says, patients may take notes or ask whether they may use a tape recorder. Some people also want to have a family member or friend with them when they talk to the doctor—to take part in the discussion, to take notes, or just to listen.

People do not need to ask all of their questions or remember all of the answers at one time. Questions may arise throughout the treatment process. Patients and caregivers may ask doctors, nurses, or other members of the health care team to explain things further or to provide more information.

These are some questions a patient may want to ask the doctor before treatment begins:

  • What is the diagnosis?
  • What is the stage of the disease?
  • What is the grade of the disease?
  • What are the treatment choices? Which do you recommend? Why?
  • What are the risks and possible side effects of each treatment?
  • What are the chances that the treatment will be successful?
  • What new treatments are being studied in clinical trials? Would a clinical trial be appropriate?
  • How long will treatment last?
  • Will treatment affect my normal activities? If so, for how long?
  • What is the treatment likely to cost?

Follow-up Care

Even though most skin cancers are cured, the disease can recur in the same place. Also, people who have been treated for skin cancer have a higher-than-average risk of developing a new cancer elsewhere on the skin. So it is important for your loved one to continue to examine himself or herself regularly, to visit a doctor for regular checkups, and to follow the doctor’s instructions to reduce the risk of developing skin cancer again.

© Copyright FamilyCare America, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Adapted from information in the What You Need to Know About™ Cancer series, published by the National Cancer Institute.

After The Flood
Download this free, to-the-point, guide to help flood victims protect themselves against diseases and other hazards in the days and weeks following a flood.

AfterTheFlood.pdf

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the Illinois Department of Public Health



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