Skin is the largest organ of our body, spreading from head to toes. Skin is the part that is exposed to harsh rays of sunlight. Problems in skin can occur in any form like psoriasis, rashes, eczema and tumors. Skin tumor can develop in any part of the skin that is overly exposed and for some people it can occur on the scalp. Over exposure of the skin to the sunlight and using tanning beds for long duration is the major cause for getting skin cancer. Fair complexioned people and those who live in high intensity sunlight regions are at risk of developing skin cancer.
Skin cancer on scalp cannot be easily detected in early stages like cancer on other body parts. The first sign of skin cancer is formation of small bumps on your head or development of scaly rough patches on the scalp. You should understand your skin thoroughly in order to detect any changes. It is quite normal for most of us to inspect our body while bathing or applying make-up but we seldom detect any changes in the scalp since it is covered by layer of hair.
Causes And Risk Factors :
Sunlight exposure and using indoor tanning is considered to be the major causes of skin cancer. Anybody can get skin cancer but is more prone to develop on fair complexioned people. People with light skin, people with plenty of moles, people who spend plenty of time in the sun and those who live in areas of high intensity sunlight are at high risk of getting skin cancer.
The individual’s skin type and number of moles on the body can also increase the risk. People with blue/green eyes and those with sunburns are at high risk of getting skin cancer. An individual undergoing radiation therapy for long duration has increased risk. Likewise people who underwent organ transplant recently may develop skin cancer since it may lower the immunity of the body.
Skin Cancer Types :
Like skin cancer on other body parts, there are 3 major types of skin cancer on the scalp.
- Basal celled skin cancer (known as BCC) occurs in the lower layer of the epidermis and approximately 80% of skin cancer are of basal type. It can be recognized as small pink dots on the scalp which bleeds easily even while combing your hair. BCC often develops on the scalp and neck region.
- Squamous celled cancer develops on squamous cells on the epidermis layer of the skin. It looks like rough patch on the scalp and they are tender small patches. About 10-30% of skin cancer is of squamous type and it develops only when the skin is highly damaged by exposure to sun or other chemicals.
- Melanoma skin cancer is the most dangerous type of skin cancer and is often lethal (deadly). This type of cancer develops from melanocytes (responsible for skin color) which begin to grow in uncontrolled fashion leading to a tumor. Melanoma skin cancer is rare but it can easily spread to other body parts and even brain through connected blood vessels. Melanocytes are found in deep layer of the skin and when cancer/tumor forms in this layer it can invade lymph nodes and blood vessels.
Melanoma cancer is quite dangerous (irrespective of wherever it develops) but it can be riskier on the scalp than other places of the skin. Death rate of melanoma skin cancer on the scalp is almost double that of skin cancer on other parts. Scalp is often hidden by hair and you rarely take efforts to look at them and this facilitates melanomas to grow quickly and spread to other body parts. Any difference in your scalp can be detected only in the salon and that too if you are regularly visiting the same salon.
Melanomas would appear as black/dark spots that are brownish red in color. An expert dermatologist needs to use special instruments of high resolution to detect melanomas on the scalp in early stages. Hence if you are at risk of getting skin cancer you can make regular visits to dermatologist to notice any changes in your skin or scalp.
Skin cancer on the scalp cannot be detected easily and it often develops in regions that are not fully covered by hair. Sometimes it would destroy normal healthy skin cells and grows in size to form a tumor. It can look like a small dark mole or blister that does not heal quickly. However not all the cysts or blisters is skin cancer. Infection or allergic reaction can easily occur on the scalp due to accumulation of dust. Infection can occur on the hair follicles, allergy like acne or cyst may grow on the scalp in the form of pinkish red spots causing irritation.
BCC occurs as small pink spots or like a pimple. For some people, it may develop as sores that bleeds easily and heals quickly to return in the same vigor. This is the most common type of skin cancer on scalp that can be treated and cured. Squamous type often occurs on the head, neck and arm. This would appear as rough scaly patches, reddish brown bumps, or like open sores that bleeds. Melanomas occur mostly on the moles or its neighborhood growing in shape and changing color. If you notice any new dark red spots on your scalp it can be melanomas.
Dermatologist would examine the scalp closely to understand the type of growth and its size and shape. She may use dermascope for getting clear picture of the scalp. Biopsy of the skin scalp is done by removing tiny portion of the tumor/mole and testing it on the lab.
Before starting any treatment your skin doctor would assess the type and position of skin cancer of scalp. She would then find out the stage of cancer to know how far it has advanced. Depending on the above factors your dermatologist would opt for surgery, chemo, radiation or immune therapy.
- Surgery :
If the cancer is mild or moderate and has not spread surgery is the right choice. Excision is the process of removing the cancer causing cells and tumor safely from the scalp after numbing the skin. Moh’s surgery is the mode in which the surgeon would remove the affected skin of the scalp in layers. In this process some of the healthy skin cells are also removed along with cancerous cells. The surgery is performed at different intervals through a microscope to verify the entire cancerous cells are removed. Mild form of BCC or SCC cancer can be treated with curettage in which the surgeon would use a small electric needle to burn the cancerous cells.
- Immunotherapy :
Medications are given to destroy the cancer causing cells and to boost the immune system of the patient. Chemotherapy and radiation is often combined with surgery and is used mostly for advanced stage of skin cancer. Chemo can be done in the form of oral pills, injection or infusion. These drugs travel in the body to kill the cancerous cells totally.
Images, Pics, Photos and Pictures of Skin Cancer On Scalp :
Skin cancer on scalp can be cured fully if detected early. Outlook depends on the age, health, intensity of cancer and its type and stage. Even patients detected with melanomas are completely cured if treated early. If the cancer has metastasized (moves) to other parts, it is difficult to treat and it can be lethal.
There is no way to prevent skin cancer. But you can reduce the risk by avoiding high rate of sun exposure.