Cancer is a condition that ranges widely and which can appear in almost any part of the body. It does occur on the extremities, including the hands and arms, and it is best treated quickly and by a qualified hand surgeon or expert.
Naturally, it may be difficult to recognize when skin cancer of the hand is present. Interestingly enough, it is the skin that is the organ most commonly affected by cancer, and on the hands the most common types of cancer to appear are:
- Squamous cell carcinoma
- Basal cell carcinoma
There are other rare forms of skin cancer of the hand, as well, and it takes a medical professional to perform any diagnosis. However, you can know if you are at greater risk for developing it. The following list of factors tend to apply:
- Chronic sun exposure
- Immune suppression
- Fair or light complexion
- Exposure to chemicals and/or radiation
- If you have pre-malignant lesions in the past
- Family tendency to melanoma
- Genetic conditions relating to skin cancer
And while there are many online resources with photographs of various forms of skin cancer of the hand or upper extremity, the best way to get diagnosed is through a visit to a hand expert. Though there are some very clear indicators that can be used to visually identify potential carcinomas and melanomas (such as discolored nodules appearing on the skin, cutaneous horns forming in odd locations, and areas that wont heal), the expert opinion is the best.
Diagnosis and Treatment
You hand doctor will do a visual inspection and take a biopsy or sample of the tissue in question. This is sent to a lab that assesses it and determines if the tissue is indeed cancerous or pre-cancerous. In some cases a larger sample may be required to make a definitive diagnosis.
If cancer is present, the next step is often to examine the lymph nodes to be sure that the cancer has not metastasized (or expanded to another area of the body). This is done through biopsy or through a range of different scans, such as a CT scan.
When a full diagnosis and assessment is done, the most common treatment is removal of the tissue by a qualified hand surgeon. The traditional approach is to remove all of the tissue infected with cancer cells along with tissue at the edges of the cancerous region. A surgeon will also perform all essential repairs at the same time, such as grafting healthy skin over the excised area.
In certain types of cancer, removal is followed by radiation or chemotherapy to be sure that all cancerous tissue has been eradicated. And in extreme cases there can be a need for amputation, but this is, as indicated, an extreme.
If you suspect that you are at risk for developing skin cancer of the hand or upper extremity, or have noticed a long-lasting change in the skin of one part of the hand, do not hesitate to visit a surgeon. As the experts say, the best treatment for skin cancer of any kind is prevention (SkinCancer.org, 2015). If you suspect something wrong, your next best treatment is early detection and rapid action in the care of a hand surgeon.