Cancerous growths in the facial area are typically skin cancers. The most familiar skin cancer is melanoma. The most common cancer found in humans is basal cell carcinoma – in Finland up to 15,000 cases are diagnosed each year. Basal cell carcinoma is generally caused by the sun, and it most typically occurs on the face. The cancer often appears as a small, scab-like ulcer or solid spavin. The risk of developing a carcinoma increases with age and the average age of sufferers is 70. The diagnosis is always confirmed by biopsy before an operation.
Carcinomas are local cancers and never spread by metastasis. Nevertheless, they must always be treated. A basal cell carcinoma grows very slowly, but if the cancer has been allowed to grow, it can cause a significant problem as the tissues surrounding it are destroyed. Basal cell carcinomas can nearly always be treated, but if they have had time to grow deep into the tissue, the operation needed to treat them can be a major one and lead to significant functional disorders.
Usually, basal cell carcinomas can be treated with a small operation that is performed under local anesthetic in a treatment room. The early stages of a basal cell carcinoma may also be treated using other methods, such as freezing or laser treatment.
A third common type of skin cancer is a squamous cell carcinoma. Some 1,500 cases are detected every year in Finland. A squamous cell carcinoma is also usually caused by the sun and often appears in areas of the skin that have been exposed to sunlight. Squamous cell carcinomas may look very different from one another. They may be reddish in color and have a scaly texture, appear as a wound that will not heal, or resemble a wart.
As with other cancers, it is essential to identify the cancer in sufficient time. A skin change showing symptoms and which will not heal by itself should be shown to a doctor. A biopsy is taken of suspicious changes and a pathologist's examination confirms the diagnosis.
A squamous cell carcinoma is generally local, but if it grows deep it can sometimes spread by metastasis. People with immune deficiency (such as organ transplant patients) may be more susceptible to squamous cell carcinomas. A squamous cell carcinoma is generally treated with surgery. Sometimes radiation therapy is also used.
The majority of squamous cell carcinomas can be treated with minor surgery under local anesthetic in a treatment room. The early stages of a squamous cell carcinoma and damage to the skin caused by the sun are normally treated either by freezing the skin without surgery or with laser treatment.