Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is a major concern in the healthcare sector, representing a significant portion of all new cancer diagnoses. Nursing students need a comprehensive understanding of this condition, including its types, causes, symptoms, and management strategies.

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    Understanding Skin Cancer

    Skin cancer is a major concern in the healthcare sector, representing a significant portion of all new cancer diagnoses. Nursing students need a comprehensive understanding of this condition, including its types, causes, symptoms, and management strategies.

    What is Skin Cancer?

    Skin cancer refers to the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of skin cells. It usually occurs on parts of the body that have frequent exposure to the sun, but it can also develop on parts of your skin that are not ordinarily exposed to sunlight.

    Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in every three cancers diagnosed globally is a skin cancer.

    Different types of Skin Cancer

    Skin cancer can vary in type, each having its own distinctive characteristics and associated risk factors. It is critical to distinguish between these types as their severity, treatment, and prognosis might differ substantially.

    • Basal Cell Skin Cancer
    • Squamous Cell Skin Cancer
    • Melanoma Skin Cancer
    • Merkel Cell Skin Cancer

    Basal Cell Skin Cancer Explained

    Basal cell skin cancer, also known as basal cell carcinoma, originates from the basal cells in the outermost layer of the skin. It is generally slow-growing and rarely spreads to other parts of the body.

    For example, a nurse might see a patient with pearly or waxy bumps on the face or neck, which is a common sign of basal cell skin cancer.

    An Overview of Squamous Cell Skin Cancer

    Squamous cell skin cancer, or squamous cell carcinoma, originates from squamous cells that are just below the outer surface of the skin. It develops due to chronic sun exposure and commonly affects areas exposed to the sun such as the neck, face, and back of the hands.

    Characteristic Appearance
    Firm, red nodule Frequently seen
    Scaly and rough skin lesions Typically on sun-exposed areas

    Delving into Melanoma Skin Cancer

    Melanoma is an aggressive and life-threatening type of skin cancer arising from melanocytes, the pigment-producing cells in the skin. It frequently changes the shape or color of an existing mole or appears as a new mole.

    \[ \text{ABCDE rule for self-examination of moles:} \begin{itemize} \item \text{A: Asymmetry} \item \text{B: Border} \item \text{C: Color} \item \text{D: Diameter} \item \text{E: Evolving} \end{itemize} \]

    Recognising Merkel Cell Skin Cancer

    Merkel cell skin cancer, also known as neuroendocrine carcinoma of the skin, is a rare and aggressive type of skin cancer that often appears as a fast-growing, painless nodule on sun-exposed skin.

    For instance, nurses might encounter a patient presenting a shiny, firm, red or violet nodule on the face, head or neck. Such a presentation should prompt a suspicion of Merkel cell skin cancer.

    Identifying Skin Cancer Symptoms

    Recognising the symptoms of skin cancer early on is a crucial aspect of nursing care. Different types of skin cancer present with different signs and symptoms, and understanding these nuances can greatly aid in early detection and prompt treatment.

    Common Symptoms of Skin Cancer

    Despite the variety of types of skin cancer, there are certain common symptoms that you might encounter. These can be as simple as changes to existing skin lesions or the appearance of new ones.

    Some of the most common signs and symptoms of skin cancer include:

    • New growths on the skin
    • Changes in existing skin lesions
    • Sores that do not heal
    • Changes in skin texture or colour

    It's important to note that skin cancer is not always symptomatic, especially in the early stages. Regular skin checks are crucial for early detection.

    Signs to Look Out for Early Stage Skin Cancer

    Early warning signs for skin cancer often depend on the type of skin cancer. However, certain indicators may suggest that a skin abnormality could be in the early stages of cancer.

    For instance, the appearance of new growths or spots on the skin that do not heal, especially in sun-exposed areas, should raise concerns. It's crucial to also keep an eye out for existing moles or freckles that begin to grow, change shape, or change colour.

    \[ \text{A simplified formula or rule of thumb for identifying possible skin cancer is the EFG rule:} \begin{itemize} \item \text{E: Elevated (raised from the skin surface)} \item \text{F: Firm to touch} \item \text{G: Growing} \end{itemize} \]

    Distinguishing Signs of Different Skin Cancer Types

    Different skin cancer types each have distinguishing signs that can help nurses and other healthcare professionals make a possible diagnosis. Here, we'll look at some signs that are specific to different types of skin cancer.

    Basal Cell Carcinoma Specific Signs

    Basal Cell Carcinoma often appears as a pearly or waxy bump, or as a flat, flesh-coloured or brown scar-like lesion. The chest or back might have a lesion that looks like eczema.

    Squamous Cell Carcinoma Specific Signs

    In the case of squamous cell carcinoma, the early signs might include a hard, red nodule or a flat lesion with a scaly, crusted surface.

    For example, a nurse may come across a patient with persistent, scaly red patches with irregular borders that sometimes crust over on sun-exposed skin, or a raised, hard, pearl-like bump that may become inflamed or bleed.

    Melanoma Specific Signs

    A primary sign of melanoma is a mole that changes in colour, size or feel, or that bleeds. Other indicative signs might include a brownish spot with dark speckles or small lesions that are red, white, blue or blue-black.

    Merkel Cell Carcinoma Specific Signs

    Merkel cell carcinoma might manifest as a fast-growing, painless nodule on your skin that might be skin-coloured or appear as a red or violet shine.

    Causes and Risk Factors of Skin Cancer

    Various factors contribute to the development of skin cancer. By studying these causes and risk factors, you can better understand how to prevent and manage this condition in your nursing practice.

    Common Causes of Skin Cancer

    There are several causes of skin cancer, with varying degrees of associated risk. The primary cause of skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which emanates from the sun and artificial sources like tanning beds and sun lamps.

    UV Radiation: This is a type of electromagnetic radiation from the sun or artificial sources. This radiation can cause skin damage and is the leading cause of most skin cancers.

    UV radiation is classified into three types: UVA, UVB, and UVC. While UVC does not reach the Earth's surface, UVA and UVB penetrate the skin and contribute to premature skin aging, eye damage, and skin cancers.

    Risk Factors for the Development of Basal Cell and Squamous Cell Skin Cancer

    Various risk factors may increase the likelihood of developing either basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer. They range from environmental influences to inherent genetic traits.

    Risk Factor: This is any attribute, characteristic or exposure that increases the likelihood of developing a disease or health problem.

    • Frequent and intense sun exposure and history of sunburns
    • Fair skin, lightly coloured eyes, and blonde or red hair
    • Age - these conditions are more common in people age 50 or older
    • Personal or family history of skin cancer
    • Exposure to radiation or dangerous chemicals
    • HIV/AIDS or other conditions or treatments that suppress the immune system

    How Melanoma and Merkel Cell Skin Cancer Can Be Triggered?

    Similarly, specific factors increase the probability of developing melanoma or Merkel cell skin cancer. Understanding these triggers is essential to help in early detection or prevention strategies.

    Trigger: Any stimulus that initiates or exacerbates a latent health condition.

    For illustration, exposure to strong sunlight or a family history of melanoma may increase your likelihood of developing melanoma. In addition, a weakened immune system or a history of extensive UV radiation exposure may increase your risk of developing Merkel cell skin cancer.

    Risk Factors for Melanoma Risk Factors for Merkel Cell Skin Cancer
    Exposure to intense sunlight or UV radiation Exposure to intense sunlight or UV radiation
    A family history of melanoma Old age (commonly found in people over 50)
    Weakened immune system Weakened immune system

    Skin Cancer - Key takeaways

    • Skin Cancer: Skin cancer refers to the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of skin cells. It is the most common form of cancer worldwide. One in every three cancers diagnosed globally is a skin cancer.
    • Skin Cancer Types: Major types of skin cancer include Basal Cell Skin Cancer, Squamous Cell Skin Cancer, Melanoma Skin Cancer, and Merkel Cell Skin Cancer. The origins, progression, and symptoms of these types differ substantially.
    • Skin Cancer Symptoms: Common symptoms include new growths on the skin, changes in existing skin lesions, sores that do not heal, changes in skin texture or colour.
    • Early Stage Skin Cancer: Early signs often depend on the type of skin cancer. They may include the appearance of new growths or spots on the skin that do not heal, especially in sun-exposed areas, or existing moles or freckles that begin to grow, change shape, or change colour.
    • Skin Cancer Causes: The primary cause of skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or artificial sources. Frequent and intense sun exposure, age, personal or family history of skin cancer, exposure to radiation or dangerous chemicals, and conditions or treatments that suppress the immune system are notable risk factors.
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    Frequently Asked Questions about Skin Cancer
    What role does a nurse play in the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer?
    A nurse plays a crucial role in diagnosing skin cancer by assisting in the examination of suspicious lesions, educating patients about the early signs and prevention measures. During treatment, nurses administer therapies, monitor patient's response, deliver emotional support, and provide aftercare advice.
    Can a nurse provide information on how to prevent skin cancer?
    Yes, a nurse can provide information on how to prevent skin cancer. They can advise on protective measures such as using sunscreen, avoiding peak sun hours, wearing protective clothing, and regularly checking your skin for changes.
    How can a nurse support a patient living with skin cancer emotionally and physically?
    A nurse can support a patient with skin cancer emotionally by listening to their concerns, providing relevant information, and offering reassurances. Physically, they can assist with managing symptoms, monitor treatment effects, and provide guidance about skin care and sun protection.
    What preventative measures can a nurse recommend to lessen the risk of skin cancer?
    A nurse may recommend daily use of broad-spectrum sunscreen, avoiding excessive sun exposure especially during peak sunlight hours, wearing protective clothing like wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts, and sunglasses, and regular skin check-ups to detect any irregularities early.
    What advice can a nurse give about recognising early signs of skin cancer?
    A nurse can advise regularly checking your skin for new growths, changes in existing moles, sores that don't heal, or areas that itch, bleed, or cause pain. Any suspicious changes should prompt immediate medical consultation.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    What is the EFG rule used for identifying possible skin cancer?

    What is skin cancer?

    What are the four different types of skin cancer?

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