Prognosis is the medical word that refers to the likely outcome of a disease or illness. In the case of skin cancer, prognosis refers to the likelihood that the individual who suffers from the disease will survive for greater than five years and usually indicates any long-term effects that the individual may suffer from.
The prognosis of skin cancer will be dependent upon the duration of time which the individual suffered from symptoms, the chances of complications from the type of skin cancer diagnosed, the stage of the cancer, the size and location of the tumor and the patient’s overall general health.
These criteria will also be considered when the healthcare practitioner determines the treatment options which may best suit the individual who suffers from skin cancer. There are three different cell types of skin cancer which can affect individuals. These are basal cell, squamous cell and melanoma.
By far both basal cell and squamous cell cancers are the least invasive and the most curable when treated promptly. The key to success with the treatments of any type of skin cancer is early detection and treatment. Both basal cell and squamous cell cancers are also referred to as a nonmelanoma. These nonmelanoma cancers account for over 90% of the skin cancers which are diagnosed in the United States today. And while skin cancer accounts for greater than 80% of the overall number of cancer diagnosed it also accounts for approximately 1% of the death rate accountable to skin cancer.
While a positive outcome prognosis for basal cell and squamous cell cancers is close to 95%, the prognosis for melanoma will depend upon how far the disease has spread. If the cancer has spread to other parts of the body the cure rate will drop dramatically. For instance when caught early this cure rate can be as high as 95% but if the cancer has reached the lymph nodes the survival rate after five years drops to 50%. If the melanoma goes beyond the lymph nodes it may be considered incurable.
When melanoma is still local it is termed melanoma in situ and the survival rate is over 95%. Fortunately, approximately 80% of melanoma is diagnosed in this early stage. Melanoma cells, when spread through metastasis, will usually spread first in the lymph nodes system or through the glands. It is also known to spread via the blood vessels and can cause metastatic tumor in the liver, lungs or brain.
For patients with melanoma, the longer they remained cancer free following treatment the better their chances for remaining disease-free. It is not uncommon for those who had a large melanoma at the initial diagnosis to have relapses. Some current research even suggests that many local melanomas may be more dangerous than previously thought. Patients who have had even small melanomas removed should be monitored on a consistent basis.
Individuals who have recovered from melanoma should be very strict about adhering to prevention and remain vigilant doing self examinations because the risk of developing a new melanoma is increased for this population over a normal healthy population even if the first one was successfully cured.
The prognosis is skin cancer also includes a complications which may be associated both with the cancer and the treatment options. Some of those complications include re-current cancer, side effects from drugs or medications, scar tissue from biopsies and tumor removal and scar tissue from topical chemotherapy or laser treatment.
The majority of treatment options for skin cancer can be accomplished as an outpatient in the physician office or in an outpatient facility. If however the skin cancer has gone deeper and affects internal organs or lymph nodes treatment must be accomplished in the hospital.
The prognosis for individuals with skin cancer will rise when the lesions are diagnosed early and treatment is instituted immediately. With the improvements in treatments and technology there is no reason to risk further metastasis by waiting to see the physician.
American Cancer Society: Melanoma Skin Cancer
University of Maryland Medical Center: Skin Cancer
Cancer Research UK: Statistics and Outlook for Skin Cancer
National Cancer Insitute: SKin Cancer
American Cancer Society: Melanoma Skin Cancer Early Detection and Staging
Cell Biology and Cancer: Skin cancer
University of Maryland Medical Center: http://umm.edu/
MD Anderson Cancer Center: Melanoma
Ohio State University: Skin Cancer FAQ