Skin Cancer, Acne, and Psoriasis

Skin Cancer? Acne? Psoriasis? We can clear up your questions.

According to the American College of Dermatology, one of every three people – from newborns to those in their golden years — suffers from a skin disease. Your Ft. Collins Skin Clinic dermatologist or provider specializes in treating the more than 3,000 common and rare diseases that can affect your skin, hair, and nails.

Skin Cancer

More than 2 million cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year. Most fall into these categories:

  • Basal cell carcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Melanoma

The majority of skin cancers are actually caused by sun damage starting in childhood (every burn or tan causes damage) or from damage caused by tanning beds. There are many types of skin cancer, and even the same type of skin cancer can look different from person to person. The best way to determine if you have skin cancer is to see one of our dermatologists for a thorough visual examination of your skin from your scalp to the bottom of your feet

This exam will be done in the same detailed manner as your family physician doing a complete physical examination. Our dermatologist will carefully examine growths, moles, and dry patches. If a suspicious area is found, the dermatologist will remove it (or part of it) and send it to a lab. Skin cancer cannot be fully diagnosed without this biopsy.

Some skin cancers are aggressive and can spread to other parts of the body. Therefore, early detection and treatment is especially important. Be aware that anything on your skin that grows, changes shape or bleeds or itches for more than two weeks may be signs of skin cancer and should be checked out as soon as possible.

When caught early and removed, skin cancer has a high cure rate.

Treatment

There are many treatments for skin cancer. A dermatologist selects treatment after considering the following:

  • Type of skin cancer
  • Where the skin cancer appears on the body
  • Whether the skin cancer is aggressive
  • Stage of the cancer (how deeply the skin cancer has grown and whether it has spread)
  • Patient’s health

The proper choice of treatment for any particular skin cancer can help determine the highest cure rate.

Treatments include various types of surgical procedures, including microscopically controlled surgery (MOHS surgery).

Other treatments: Surgical treatment is not right for every case of skin cancer. Some patients cannot undergo surgery. Sometimes, surgery cannot remove all of the cancer, and more treatment is used to help get rid of the cancer. If the skin cancer is caught very early, surgery may not be necessary.

Other treatments for skin cancer are:
  • Immunotherapy: This treatment uses the patient’s own immune system to fight the cancer. The patient applies a cream (generic name is imiquimod) to the skin as directed by the dermatologist.
  • Cryosurgery: The dermatologist freezes the skin cancer. Freezing destroys the treated area, causing the skin and cancer cells to slough off.
  • Chemotherapy applied to the skin: The generic name for the medicine used in this treatment is 5-fluorouracil or 5-FU. The patient applies 5-FU to the skin cancer. It destroys the damaged skin cells. When the skin heals, new skin appears.
  • Chemotherapy: If the cancer spreads beyond the skin, chemotherapy may kill the cancer cells. When a patient gets chemotherapy, the patient takes medicine. This medicine may be swallowed, injected (shots), or infused (given with an IV). The medicine travels throughout the body and kills the cancer cells. The medicine also destroys some normal cells. This can cause side effects, such as vomiting and hair loss. When chemotherapy stops, the side effects usually disappear.
  • Photodynamic therapy: This treatment consists of 2 phases. First, a chemical is applied to the skin cancer. This chemical sits on the skin cancer for several hours. During the second phase, the skin cancer is exposed to a special light. This light destroys the cancer cells.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation may be used to treat older adults who have a large skin cancer, skin cancers that cover a large area, or a skin cancer that is difficult to surgically remove. Radiation therapy gradually destroys the cancer cells through repeat exposure to radiation. A patient may receive 15 to 30 treatments. This treatment is often only recommended for older adults. Many years after a person is exposed to radiation, new skin cancer can develop.

If it is caught early and properly treated, skin cancer can be cured. Even melanoma, which can be deadly, has a cure rate of almost 100% when treated early.

Routine follow-up full skin exams are an integral part of your continuing care, to monitor for recurrence of skin cancers and check for any new skin cancers. These follow-up exams are individualized based upon an analysis of your family history and past/present Dermatologic History.

The main point to remember is this – what you do not see could potentially be harmful.

  • Malignant Melanoma
  • Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer
  • Moles and Atypical Nevi
  • Actinic Keratoses
  • Mohs Surgery
Acne
Acne is the most common skin condition and affects not just teens but a growing number of women in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and beyond. Letting it just “run its course” is not always the best course of action.
  • Without treatment, dark spots and permanent scars can appear on the skin even as your acne clears.
  • Many effective treatments are available.
  • Treating acne can boost your self-esteem.

Acne, which can appear on the face, neck, chest, shoulders and back, is not caused by food, dirt or lack of cleanliness. It is actually an inflammatory condition of the hair follicle, hair shaft and sebaceous gland which occurs when dead skin cells and oils plug pores. It can lead to pigmentary changes and potential scarring.

Genetics and fluctuating hormonal changes influence the severity of acne. The reality is that 50% of acne patients seen are adult females.

The healthcare providers and aestheticians at Advanced Dermatology understand the negative affect acne can have on your self-esteem and quality of life. This is why we are committed to customizing therapies that are right for you and will work to improve your acne and maintain the results.

Acne Vulgaris

Psoriasis

Millions of people in the U.S. suffer from psoriasis, a chronic (long-lasting) disease that develops when a person’s immune system sends faulty signals that tell skin cells to grow too quickly. New skin cells form in days rather than weeks.

The body does not shed these excess skin cells. The skin cells pile up on the surface of the skin, causing patches of psoriasis to appear.

You cannot get psoriasis from touching someone who has it. To get psoriasis, a person must inherit the genes that cause it.

There are several ways psoriasis can start. In most sufferers, the tendency to get psoriasis is inherited. It is not passed on in a simple, direct way like hair color, but involves multiple genes. For this reason, it is not always clear from whom one inherited it. Inherited psoriasis usually starts in older childhood or as a young adult. Sometimes, especially in children, a virus or strep throat triggers brief attacks of tiny spots of psoriasis. In middle-aged older adults, a non-hereditary type of psoriasis can develop. This changes more rapidly than the inherited form, varying in how much skin is involved more unpredictably. Most types of psoriasis show some tendency to come and go, with variable intensity over time.

Psoriasis flare-ups may be triggered by changes in climate, infections, stress, excess alcohol, a drug-related rash and dry skin.

Medications may trigger a flare up weeks to months after starting them. These include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Indocin, Advil, Feldene, others), blood pressure (beta-blockers such as Tenormin, Inderal), oral steroids such as prednisone, or depression (lithium).

Psoriasis tends to be worst in those with a disordered immune system for other reasons (cancer, AIDS or autoimmune disease). Psoriasis areas are worsened by scratching and minor skin injuries or irritations. Psoriasis may itch or burn. It most often occurs over the elbows, knees, scalp, lower back, and palms or soles of the feet. The skin may split or crack in areas that bend.

For many, having psoriasis causes emotional distress.

Types of Psoriasis

There are several forms of psoriasis. The most common form shows reddened areas a few inches across covered by silvery scales. Dermatologists refer to the affected areas as areas as “plaques”. Psoriasis can also appear in “inverse” (shiny, red patches in areas of friction such as in the folds of skin in the groin, the armpits or under the breasts), pustular (blisters of noninfectious pus on red skin), or “erythrodermic” (reddening and scaling of most of the skin).

Psoriasis may also affect some of the joints causing discomfort and restricted motion, and even distortion. This occurs in about 10 percent of people with psoriasis. This is called “psoriatic arthritis”.

It often affects only a few fingertips, but in some it can be severe and widespread. It also may affect the fingernails, toenails and the mucous membranes lining the genitalia and mouth.

Some people get more than one type. Sometimes a person gets one type of psoriasis, and then the type of psoriasis changes.

Treatment is based on the severity of the disease and its responsiveness to prior treatments. The most conservative treatment includes topical medications applied to the skin, the next level involves treatments with ultraviolet light (phototherapy) and finally, taking medications internally.

Not every treatment works for every person. Finding the right combination for you may include some trial-and-error as well as your own personal preferences. The locations, size and amount of psoriasis, prior treatments, and the specific form of the disorder are all factors in planning the right course of treatment for you.

Over time, psoriasis may become resistant to treatments. To reduce the risk of becoming resistant, treatments may be combined, or changed about every 12 to 24 months.

Of the thousands of conditions we treat, some of the most common include:
  • Eczema/Atopic Dermatitis
  • Rosacea
  • Hair loss
  • Pediatric Dermatology
  • Skin Infections
  • Skin Rashes

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