About one in five Americans will develop nonmelanoma skin cancer (NMSC) during their lifetime. Although there are several types of NMSC, the most common types are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

Other less common nonmelanoma skin cancers include cutaneous (which means related to the skin) lymphomas, Merkel cell carcinoma and Kaposi sarcoma.

In addition, several other skin lesions may be confused with skin cancer. These include actinic keratoses, which is a precancerous lesion; seborrheic keratoses, a brown, black or light tan growth; and sebaceous gland hyperplasia, a usually skin-colored bump.

Anyone with skin lesions that are new or changing, particularly those who have an increased risk of skin cancer, should be evaluated by a dermatologist.

At University of Maryland Medical Center, our team of skin cancer specialists works with our dermatology department to offer diagnosis and treatment of nonmelanoma skin cancer.

Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer Symptoms

Sometimes nonmelanoma skin cancers do not cause symptoms other than a spot that looks different than it did before.

Any spot on the skin that is new, changes in color or size or causes itching, bleeding or tenderness should be evaluated. The doctor will perform a history and physical examination, including a full body skin exam and a focus on specific changes to the spot that is of concern.

Diagnosing Skin Cancers

If the spot could be cancerous, a sample of tissue will be taken from it in a biopsy. For NSMCs, this is done in one of three ways:

  • A shave biopsy involves using a scalpel to remove the top skin layers.
  • A punch biopsy uses a device that removes a cylinder of skin tissue. This is helpful for smaller skin lesions that involve several layers of skin. The sampled area is usually closed with one or two stitches.
  • An excisional or incisional biopsy also uses a scalpel, but it removes several layers of skin to sample a larger area. The area is then closed with several stitches.

After some or all of the suspicious skin tissue is collected, it is sent to a pathologist, a doctor who specializes in looking at body tissues under a microscope to determine if cancer is present.

Both basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers that have not spread to other parts of the body can be treated effectively with HDR brachytherapy as part of the radiation oncology program. Superficial brachytherapy is a painless procedure that usually lasts only a few minutes per session without disrupting daily life. 

For more information or to make an appointment with one of our skin cancer specialists, call 667-214-1195.