Tuesday, February 12, 2008

How to Manage Skin Cancer Symptoms and Treatments

Millions of people are affected by skin cancer. Each year the number of skin cancer cases increases, highlighting the need for an effective way to manage both the symptoms and the treatment. Fortunately, there is an easy way to keep tabs on this disease.

First, understand that there are three types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Each one can be treated if detected early enough. Both the squamous cell carcinoma and the insidious melanoma can spread to other parts of the body. Once skin cancer spreads, it is much more difficult to treat, so early detection is vital.

Second, recognize the most common causes of skin cancer: heredity (if there is a history of skin cancer in your family, your chances of contracting it are higher than normal), damage to DNA, exposure to ultraviolet rays, over-exposure to sunlight, and exposure to certain deadly chemicals. If any of these causes sound like they might apply in your case, pay close attention to the skin cancer symptoms described next.

Third, be aware of the common symptoms of skin cancer: skin discoloration, blotches and patches on the skin, irritation and redness. Melanoma occurs in moles on your body. The mole may change color or size, and may start bleeding. Be very watchful for any of these sorts of changes.

Fourth, consider the standard and alternative treatment options that are available to treat skin cancer. Most melanomas need to be surgically removed. However other skin cancers may be treated by removing affected and surrounding tissue. Radiation therapy and cryotherapy may also be available if the cancer is low risk and treated early. In cases where cancer has already spread and metastasized, then surgery and/or chemotherapy may be required.

So, how do you stack the odds in your favor? By managing your symptoms and treatment results carefully and systematically. Keep a journal of any symptom of skin cancer that you may encounter. For instance, the first time you see any oddity on your skin -- such as the appearance of a splotch on the skin or a discoloration or change in a mole -- make a note in a journal. Then on a weekly basis keep track of any changes in size, shape or color.

Having an ongoing journal gives you an objective and precise history of when and how conditions on your skin have developed. This will be invaluable when you consult a doctor or dermatologist. Then, be sure to make an appointment with a doctor or dermatologist and get it checked out. Skin cancer is not one of those things that will go away on its own. It starts out with the greatest likelihood of being treatable. As time goes by, it gets less and less easy to treat it. Delaying the consultation with your doctor could cost you your life!

Once a course of treatment has been prescribed for you, keep another journal in which you describe the results. Have the symptoms gone away? Are they better? Worse? If a mole was removed, have other similar moles appeared? Have any other skin discolorations become evident?

If you are taking medication, keep a record of what you take and when. Is it helping the symptoms? Are there any side effects? Keep track of when side effects occur and how severe they are. Having this information handy will help your doctor prescribe the treatment that best addresses your overall health.

Setting up journals like the ones described here is easy to do. You can use a paper worksheet, a computer word processing program, or even a spreadsheet program like Excel.

You owe it to yourself to take an active role in managing your own health. Skin cancer is a serious disease, and you need to use every tool at your disposal to make sure you get the best health care possible.

Author Resource: Jason Jantzi writes for www.Health-Kit.com and is a specialist in researching treatments for pain and discomfort. Download a free Skin Cancer Health Kit from http://www.health-kit.com/cancer/skin-cancer/ and take control of your skin cancer symptoms today.

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