Most of us are acquainted with harmless-looking moles and pimples that usually go away on their own. However, not all moles are harmless, and not all pimples go away. Some moles may evolve in shape, size, and color. This evolution is rather unusual, and ill-defined. Some of these moles may even bleed. If you notice any such abnormal appearances on your skin, you should rush to a dermatologist. These may very well be the first signs of skin cancer!
The first thing a doctor does is ask you about the symptoms and do a physical inspection of the concerned area. If the skin growth looks suspicious, the doctor may perform a dermoscopy. Dermoscopy or Dermatoscopy is a method used by dermatologists to examine the spots on your skin under a dermatoscopy. A dermatoscopy produces magnified digital images of your skin cells. If the results are indeed alarming, the doctor may perform a biopsy on the affected skin cells to evaluate the severity of skin cancer.
A biopsy is a method of surgically removing the affected cells. The removed sample is then sent for laboratory testing, where the extent of damage and potential harm to healthier organs is determined. There are 4 kinds of Biopsies:
1. Shave (tangential) biopsy
As the name suggests, the skin’s top layers are shaved or peeled off using a small surgical blade. This method of diagnosis is only used when non-melanoma skin cancer is suspected.
However, shave biopsy is not efficient in the diagnosis of melanoma, unless a larger section of skin is removed to determine the extent to which cancer has invaded other layers or cells.
2. Punch biopsy
Quite similar to how a punching machine cuts through a pile of papers and creates circular openings, a punch biopsy to cuts through all the layers of skin. The sample extracted consists of the deepest layers of skin and can be used to diagnose the spread of Melanoma.
3. Excisional biopsies
The unusual growth on the skin is removed, along with some layers of the neighboring areas to evaluate the extent of cancer’s spread. This is the most commonly preferred method of biopsies and can be used to evaluate Melanoma and Non-melanoma both.
4. Incisional biopsies
Contrary to excisional biopsies, in this method of diagnosis, only a fragment of the tumorous growth is removed.
The above-mentioned diagnosis methods are invasive, painful, and leave a scar or a mark behind. Some patients have even complained of sore sensations and numb skin patches following the above-mentioned biopsies.
However, luckily there is a minimally-invasive and quicker biopsy too!
5. Optical biopsies
Reflectance Confocal Microscopy (RCM), the most popular among Optical Biopsies, do not cut a hole in your skin or take the tissues out. Using a specially equipped microscope and the nuances of spectroscopy, digital images of the affected cells are scanned and produced almost instantly.
For Non-Melanoma, the process of a biopsy is usually limited to examining the epidermal skin cells. However, as Squamous Cell carcinoma, a variant of Non-Melanoma, advances to more alarming stages, the process may require the removal of deeper samples. In early-stage Melanoma, biopsies conducted on melanocytes (the cell Melanoma starts from) and lymph nodes are enough to understand the extent of cancer growth in a patient.
However, as Melanoma reaches Stage 3 and beyond, it is capable of invading healthier organs too. To further ascertain whether the skin cancer has invaded other organs, your doctor may prescribe a few imaging tests as well. CT scans, MRIs, X-Rays, and Ultrasound. It is highly beneficial to go with experts such as SunDoctors in order to protect yourself from invading the other body organs.
Please note that there are no permanent cures to cancer available in the market. Prevention is indeed better than cure! Thus, you should minimize your exposure t harmful UV rays, and work on a healthier lifestyle, which will improve the metabolism of the body and help the immune system to protect your organs.
About The Author:
Stacey Smith is a freelance health writer. She is passionate to write about women’s health, dental health, diabetes, endocrinology and nutrition and provides in-depth features on the latest in health news for medical clinics and health magazines.