Skin tumors are growths over the skin that may or may not be painful. Other conditions causing growths over skin include cysts. It is important to differentiate between different types of skin growths before treatment for the same is started. Also, some skin tumors can be cancerous and diagnosis of any skin growth to rule out malignancy is of upmost importance. Most of the skin tumors are benign and harmless. Skin tumors are common among people of older age. In most of the cases, skin tumors occur due to hereditary reasons.
Some common types of benign skin tumors are given below:
- Warts are the commonest skin tumors that result from viral infections.
- Nevi are benign tumors that are present since birth.
- Seborrheic keratoses are skin growths causing change in color of skin from light to dark brown.
Skin tags are also common types of skin tumors that are very harmless. In most of the cases, they do not turn cancerous even if left untreated. However, any change in the color and appearance of a skin tag should raise a suspicion about cancerous growths and a biopsy of the tissue needs to be done to rule out malignancy. But, unless such changes are noticed, it is best to leave them untreated.
Troublesome benign skin tumors can be treated in the following ways:
The skin growths should be tied at their narrow base with a string or dental floss. Then, the tag or growth is frozen by using liquid nitrogen. Later, the tag should be burnt with the help of hyfrecator or cautery. The tag can be cut with scissors after that. The procedure can be done with or without anesthesia, depending upon the age of patient and location and size of growth. Patients having more than 1 small growth over skin may need topical anesthesia. The procedure can be performed on an outpatient basis. Patients may suffer from mild pain after the procedure. Use of mild analgesics can help in relieving the pain. There can be bleeding from the site after the surgical procedure, along with discoloration of part. If the skin growths are located very near to eyes, the procedure should be done under supervision of ophthalmologist to avoid any injury to eyes.
Few home remedies have also found to be very effective in treating harmless skin growths. Tying a string around the base of the growth and then waiting till the growth falls off due to lack of blood supply is a common procedure followed by many at home for removing small skin growths. However, the time required for this procedure is more whereas cosmetic surgical procedures give instant results.
However, treatment of skin tumors that are cancerous need a more careful intervention and prolonged treatment. Early detection of it can be helpful in successful treatment of the same. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the commonest types of skin cancers. Treatment of these needs surgical removal of them. The abnormal growth of tissue may need to be excised along with the surrounding tissues where the spread of growth may have occurred. Some malignant tumors of skin need different modes of treatment like radiation, chemotherapy and medications. Combined expertise of a cancer surgeon, an oncologist and a dermatologist can be helpful in effective treatment of skin cancers.
Advanced cases of skin tumors need to be removed with the help of techniques like excision, curettage, electrodesiccation or cryosurgery. These procedures are explained below:
- Curettage with electrodesiccation: In this procedure, the tumor tissue is scraped away with the help of sharp surgical devices called curatte. The bleeding caused by it can be stopped with an electrosurgical unit.
- Surgical excision: In this procedure, the growth over skin is excised surgically under local anesthesia and then the wound is closed by suturing. Some patients may need general anesthesia for the procedure, if the size of the growth is large.
- Cryosurgery: Spray of liquid nitrogen directly over the skin can help in freezing of the tissue, resulting in falling off of skin growth.
There can be mild pain after these treatments, which can be relieved with the help of analgesics.
Treatment of malignant skin tumors can also be done with external radiation therapy. A small beam of radiation is used in the procedure that is targeted at the growth over skin. The abnormal cells of skin are killed due to the radiation destroying the lesion. It can cause mild irritation and burning of the normal skin tissue surrounding the lesion. There can also be weakness after the procedure. However, these side effects do not last for long.
Skin tumors that are large in size or those that occur recurrently can be removed with a procedure called Mohs micrographic procedure. This procedure can also be used to treat tumors that are located over cosmetically sensitive parts or over high-risk regions. The skin growth is removed surgically in this procedure layer by layer, till a cancer free part is reached.
For treatment of malignant melanoma, a more aggressive surgical removal is needed. Complete excision of malignant growth should be ensured in these cases. Along with the abnormal growth, a normal tissue of 1-2 cm is also removed. Removal of surrounding lymph nodes should be done to prevent the spread of cancer. The lymph nodes should be tested for cancer. A method, called sentinel node uses radioactive substances for identifying lymph nodes that are likely to be cancerous. Excision of these lymph nodes is also preformed.
Immune therapies, chemotherapy or vaccines are needed in advanced cases of tumors. Some topical agents can be helpful in management of skin tumors like non-melanoma cancer of skin.
An early detection of skin growths along with correct diagnosis can help in successful treatment of them.