Nonmelanoma skin cancers are common and treatable.
What you need to know
Skin cancer is a disease in which cells in your skin change and grow out of control to form a tumor. It can happen anywhere in the body, but most often develops in skin that is exposed to the sun, such as the face, neck, hands and arms.
Skin cancers are either nonmelanoma or melanoma. This section focuses on nonmelanoma cancers, the more common and less-dangerous forms of skin cancer because they rarely spread.
An estimated 3 million Americans a year get nonmelanoma cancer, making it the most common form of cancer in the United States. It is curable, usually with a simple procedure or topical medicine(applied to the skin). If found early, the five-year survival rate is 98 percent. Left untreated, skin cancers can grow and disfigure your skin.
Meet our provider
Legacy Medical Group – Surgical Oncology
1040 N.W. 22nd Ave., Suite 560
Portland OR 97210
Understand your diagnosis
There are two main types of nonmelanoma cancers:
- Basal cell carcinoma: Occurs in the cells in the deeper levels of the skin; more than 80 percent of all skin cancers are this type.
- Squamous cell carcinoma: Forms in the outer part of the skin.
Actinic keratosis is a precancerous condition that is often treated as a skin cancer.
Following a diagnosis of skin cancer, you may have more tests to help your doctor understand where the cancer is located, if or where it has spread, and if it is affecting other parts of your body, known as cancer staging. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma usually do not spread to other parts of the body.
Knowing more about the cancer allows you and your doctor to develop your personalized treatment plan.
Customized treatment plans
Because each person and every cancer is different, your doctor uses your tests and exams to come up with an individual treatment plan. How long this takes depends on how complex your case is and your treatment goals. During this time, you build a relationship with your cancer doctors. You become a team for your care.
Open, honest communication can only benefit your relationship with your doctors. These tips can also help you get the most from this partnership:
- Prepare in advance: Write down your questions ahead of your visits. A few examples of smart questions:
- Why are we doing these tests?
- Why do you think this treatment is right?
- What side effects might this treatment cause?
- Find trustworthy resources: If you’re looking to learn more, rely on this website or sources your team recommends, so you can make decisions based on good information.
- Take a partner: Bringing a friend or family member to appointments can make you feel more confident and help you remember important details.
Early-stage skin cancers can often be treated with surgery alone. There are several type of surgeries. All are fairly minor, and you can usually go home the same day. The choice of treatment depends on the tumor type, size, location and depth, as well as the patient's age and general health.
More advanced skin cancers may need additional treatments like chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
You are not alone. Legacy offers support throughout your cancer journey, as well as care for your emotional, social and spiritual needs.
Nonmelanoma skin cancer: Stages
American Cancer Society: What are basal and squamous cell skin cancers?
Skin Cancer Foundation: Warning signs and information
National Cancer Institute: Skin cancer treatment overview