Skin Cancer Awareness: More Than Melanoma
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It's the most common cancer in the United States.
There are more than 3.5 million skin cancers diagnosed every year. Chances are you've heard about melanoma, but you may not know as much about the most common skin cancers that can cause their own problems.
May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and advances in screening and treatment can lead to better results in the long run.
Gerald Findley of Gainesville has been dealing with skin cancer for more than 50 years. The 81-year-old spent many summers in the gulf sun before wearing sunscreen was even an option.
“I just got cooked," he says.
It's no surprise then that Findley has struggled with several instances of squamous cell carcinoma.
“There is basal cell skin cancer, which happens to be the most common cancer of anything in the entire world,” says Dermatologist Miranda Whitmer, “There’s squamous cell cancer, and the most deadly of all skin cancers is melanoma, those are the three main types,"
While BCC and SCC are nowhere near as deadly as melanoma, they are still a problem. BCC is rarely fatal, but can be disfiguring if it isn’t treated. It's estimated that as many as 8,000 people died from SCC in 2012.
“If you let the squamous cell carcinoma progress, it can spread to the original lymphatics, and it could spread distantly also," Dr. Christopher Balamucki, a radiation oncologist at North Florida Regional Medical Center, explains.
While Findley was proactive in treating his cancer, he has been treating it for a long time.
"We’d get 4 or 5 all the time, and they come back," Findley says.
After years of other treatments - even going so far as two skin graphs - Findley turned to radiation.
Findley sought treatment with Dr. Balamucki at North Florida Regional Medical'S Cancer Center.
"I treat a lot of skin cancer in the head and neck region, and it's where the surgery can cause either a functional or cosmetic outcome that's undesirable," Balamucki says.
Fitted with a special lead helmet to protect his healthy skin, Findley underwent 6 and a half weeks of radiation therapy on his forehead where squamous cell carcinoma was recurring. Several months out, that skin is cancer-free.
Findley says he now uses sunblock all the time. Balamucki says even with other surgical treatments, radiation therapy is often used to prevent any leftover cancer cells from spreading.
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Photos provided by The Skin Cancer Foundation.
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