Delayed skin cancer diagnosis makes treatment less likely to succeed and reduces the chances of survival since the cancerous cells can quickly spread to other parts of the body. Detection and treatment of the early-stage disease play a vital role in preventing the progression of the deadly cells. Conversely, patients with deep tumors that develop into regional lymph nodes usually develop distant metastases. When this happens, survival typically only spans between 6-9 months, with a survival rate of less than 5% for five-years.
Once cancerous cells have spread, it becomes challenging to locate and treat them, which renders a patient’s chances of survival extremely low. Late diagnosis is often manifested when a doctor wrongly perceives the signs to be associated with another illness such as irritable bowel syndrome.
When Skin Cancer Spreads
When skin cancer advances to stage 3, it implies that the cancerous cells have spread to the lymph nodes or the skin around the lymph nodes and primary tumor. At stage 4, the cancerous cells move to other areas of the body, including the lungs, brain, bones, liver, stomach, or abdomen.
Patients may exhibit different symptoms depending on the areas in which the cells have spread. For instance, a patient may experience constant coughs or episodes of breathlessness, signifying that cancer has spread to the lungs. In some cases, subsequent stage 4 skin cancer symptoms may not appear for years even after the removal of the primary tumor.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S. Common forms of the disease are squamous cell cancer and basal cell cancer. These cancers usually affect the face, hands, arms, neck and the head. While melanoma is less common, it is more dangerous. Because melanoma can spread rapidly throughout the body, quick diagnosis and treatment are vital.
Unfortunately, medical mistakes can cause the diagnosis of skin cancer to be delayed. When biopsies are not performed, test results are not checked or are incorrectly interpreted, or symptoms are misdiagnosed, these errors can mean more aggressive treatments like radical surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. Sometimes, premature death cannot be avoided.
With the deadly nature of delayed skin cancer diagnosis, the public needs to be sensitized to early detection of the illness. This can be done through regular screening and self-examination with the guidance of a dermatologist. Patients should be wary of suspicious skin markings and any changes to the skin’s appearance.