Updated: Aug 13, 2022
Sun exposure is the primary cause of all skin cancers. In particular, if you are bald or have thin hair, your scalp is one of your body regions that is exposed to the sun the most. This indicates that the scalp is among the most frequent sites for skin cancer.
Utilising a tanning bed and receiving radiation therapy to the head or neck region are two additional risk factors for developing skin cancer on the scalp.
Can you prevent cancer on the scalp?
Protecting your head from the sun is the greatest strategy to prevent skin cancer on your scalp:
whenever possible, cover your head with a hat or other headgear.
On your scalp's exposed parts, apply sunscreen.
Additional measures to guard against skin cancer on your scalp include:
Don't use a tanning bed.
Keep sun exposure to a minimum.
To detect any potential malignant patches early, regularly check your scalp.
Examining your scalp can help prevent precancerous lesions from developing into cancer or from spreading into skin cancer. To get a closer look at the top and back of your head, use a mirror. Precancerous areas can feel like larger or more textured patches of skin. When picked at, they could be sensitive.
How is scalp cancer diagnosed?
If you see a questionable spot on your scalp, you can visit your doctor, or a doctor might spot it when performing a skin examination. Skin cancer will be diagnosed in a similar manner regardless of how the spot was discovered.
Your doctor will probably start by inquiring about any prior skin problems and any cancer in your family history. They will also inquire about your routines, including:
how long do you spend outside in the sun
how many sunburns you've experienced overall if you regularly employ sun protection measures like sunscreen and protective clothing, or if you just use tanning beds.
If you told your doctor about the lesion, they might inquire as to whether it has changed over time or if it is a brand-new development.
Then, in order to examine the lesion more closely and decide whether you want more testing, your doctor will perform a skin exam. They'll examine its dimensions, colour, shape, and other characteristics.
Your doctor will do a biopsy, or small sample, of the tumour on your scalp if they suspect skin cancer. This testing can reveal to your doctor whether you have cancer and the type of cancer you do have.
A biopsy, particularly one for basal cell carcinoma, may entirely eradicate a minor malignant tumour. However, this is not the test's primary objective.
Your doctor could suggest additional tests to see whether cancer has spread if one other than basal cell carcinoma is discovered. Depending on the depth of the melanoma, your doctor may ask you for imaging examinations of your head and neck lymph nodes if the area is malignant.
Signs and symptoms:
It's crucial to routinely inspect the skin and scalp for cancerous lesions. Early warning indicators and symptoms include:
A growth, bump, or area on the skin that is new or changing,
a sore that bleeds and takes a long time to heal,
rough, scaly patches that may crust, bleed, or be discoloured,
a growth that resembles a wart, or a mole with an odd shape or uneven border.
The ABCDE approach checks for early signs of that mole which can be malignant for melanoma, such as:
Asymmetry: A mole's two halves do not line up perfectly.
Moles with irregular borders have edges that are ragged, serrated, or blurry.
The mole is coloured, and the hues vary from one location to another.
The mole has a diameter of more than 6 millimetres.
The mole or skin lesion appears to be changing in size, form, or colour and stands out from other skin lesions in appearance.
How is cancer on the scalp treated?
The following are possible therapies for skin cancer on your scalp:
Surgery: In order to ensure that all cancer cells are removed, your doctor will remove the malignant tumour and some of the skin around it. Typically, this is the first course of action for melanoma. You can also require reconstructive surgery after your procedure, like a skin graft.
Mohs surgery: This procedure is used to treat skin cancer that is big, recurrent, or difficult to treat. To preserve as much skin as possible, it is used. Your doctor will perform Mohs surgery to remove the tumour in layers, each one being carefully removed and examined under a microscope until no cancer cells are visible.
Radiation may be used as the first treatment if the skin cancer is big. Additionally, it can be utilised to eliminate any cancer cells that remain following surgery.
Chemotherapy: You might be able to treat your skin cancer with a chemotherapy lotion if it only affects the top layer of the skin. Skin cancer is not routinely treated with conventional chemotherapy.
Freezing: This treatment is often used for skin cancer that has not spread deeply.
Take drugs that make cancer cells responsive to light during photodynamic therapy. The cells will then be destroyed using lasers by your doctor.
Immunotherapy: This form of treatment aids in the identification and destruction of cancer cells by your immune system. Typically, it is employed to treat melanoma.
Curettage and electrodesiccation: This procedure entails scraping the area with a specialised tool before using an electric signal to kill any cancer cells that may still be there. However, your doctor might advise an alternative course of action if thick hair is developing in the area being treated.
What is the prognosis for people with scalp cancer?
The likelihood of developing skin cancer on your scalp will depend on its exact type:
Base cell cancer
If detected early, basal cell carcinoma is typically very treatable and frequently cured. Basal cell carcinomas on the scalp, however, are frequently more difficult to treat than other basal cell carcinomas. Additionally, they are more likely to come back after being treated.
Curettage and electrodesiccation, one of the most often used therapies, has a five-year recurrence incidence for scalp basal cell carcinomas of between 5% and 23%, depending on the size of the carcinoma.
Squamous cell carcinoma
When detected early, squamous cell cancer is typically very treatable and curable. It can occasionally be more troublesome and more likely to spread in those who are immunosuppressed. If it is not detected in time, it may also be dangerous.
A Dutch study from 2019 found that the five-year overall recurrence rate for squamous cell carcinoma ranges from 3% to 8%. Compared to cancers treated with normal removal surgery, those treated with Mohs surgery showed a reduced rate of recurrence (excision). When this sort of cancer develops on your head or neck, Mohs surgery is frequently performed.
Even though melanoma is a more dangerous type of skin cancer, the results can still be improved by early identification.
Compared to other kinds of melanoma, melanoma on the scalp seems to have a worse prognosis. This might be due to the fact that scalp melanomas tend to be more aggressive and more likely to present with a late-stage diagnosis.
In a small study from 2017, the median duration from diagnosis to survival for melanoma on the scalp was 15.6 months, compared to 25.6 months for all melanomas. In comparison to other melanomas, scalp melanoma had a survival rate of 45 per cent after five years without recurrence.
Any area of your skin, including your scalp, is susceptible to skin cancer. It's crucial to take all reasonable precautions to prevent skin cancer on your scalp because it may be more difficult to detect there and frequently has a worse prognosis than other types of skin cancer.
When going outside in the sun, wear a hat or other head covering as much as possible.
To have your skin checked please call (03) 9482 3881 or book here.
Please share this post to increase skin cancer awareness.