Last updated: July 30. 2014 1:56PM - 97 Views
Margaret Brackett Contributing Columnist

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Lois Eubanks, executive director of the S.C. Cancer Alliance, will address an overview of skin cancer. July was Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month and July is UV (ultraviolet ray) Safety Month.

S.C. Cancer Alliance is a non-profit organization with a mission to reduce the impact of cancer on all people in South Carolina. Eubanks is no stranger in Newberry, having promoted SC Tobacco-Free Collaborative for the past several years in Newberry Notes.

Skin cancer

Caucasians are the primary victims of skin cancer. However, everyone, regardless of skin color, can fall prey to it. Unfortunately, many patients and even some physicians are under the impression that non-Caucasian people are immune to this disease. That is one reason people of color are diagnosed with skin cancer at later stages.

These delays mean that skin cancers are often advanced and potentially fatal, whereas most skin cancers are curable if caught and treated in a timely manner. Tragically, this is what happened to legendary reggae musician Bob Marley: What was dismissed as a soccer injury under his toenail turned out to be an aggressive form of melanoma that ultimately caused his death at 36.

The most common forms of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma. Each of these has been linked to intermittent and/or chronic sun exposure. Tanning and sunburns are analogous to cigarettes in that just one can increase your risk of cancer, regardless of skin color.

Tanning, tanning beds dangers

A tan, whether you get it on the beach, in a bed or through incidental exposure, is bad news, any way you acquire it. Tans are caused by harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun or tanning lamps, and if you have one, you’ve sustained skin cell damage.

No matter what you may hear at tanning salons, the cumulative damage caused by UV radiation can lead to premature skin aging, as well as skin cancer. In fact, indoor ultraviolet tanners are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never tanned indoors.

Early detection, self exams

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that everyone practice monthly head-to-toe self examination of their skin, so they can find any new or changing lesions that might be cancerous or precancerous. Skin cancers found and removed early are almost always curable. Learn about the warnings signs of skin cancer and what to look for during a self examination. If you spot anything suspicious, see a doctor.

Palliative care

An important part of cancer care is relieving these symptoms and side effects, an approach called palliative care. Palliative care is any treatment that focuses on reducing a patient’s symptoms, improving quality of life, and supporting patients and their families.

People with cancer often receive treatment for the cancer and treatment to ease symptoms at the same time. It is best given as soon as possible in the cancer treatment process and continues through all stages of illness, regardless of whether completely getting rid of the cancer is possible.

Palliative treatments vary widely and often include medication, nutritional changes, relaxation techniques, emotional support, and other therapies.

The goals of palliative care include treating symptoms including pain, nausea, breathlessness, insomnia, and other physical symptoms caused by cancer or its treatment; treating a patient’s emotional and social needs, including symptoms such as anxiety or helping with family relationships; addressing a patient’s spiritual needs or concerns; addressing a patient’s practical needs, such as transportation and financial concerns; and providing support for the patient’s family, friends and caregivers.

Life after treatment

The National Cancer Institute uses the term “cancer survivor” to include anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer, from the time of diagnosis through the rest of his or her life. Family members, friends, and caregivers are also part of the survivorship experience.

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