When most people think of skin cancer, they think of patches on their shoulders, backs, arms, or faces from long hours laying in the sun or frequenting tanning booths. They don’t usually look to their feet. The truth, however, is that skin cancer can develop anywhere, including on your lower limbs—and that certain types, like melanoma, can become life-threatening if not treated.
Malignant Foot Lesions
Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells, creating masses that destroy normal, healthy tissue. Some cancerous lesions are more aggressive than others, but all create some damage. Because you have skin covering your entire body, you can develop this problem anywhere. Sometimes the condition is caused by ultraviolet rays from the sun or other environmental factors, but sometimes damage occurs without an obvious cause. This is often the case for cancerous changes on your feet.
Cancer on the feet and ankles can be dangerous. Because many people don’t take the time to inspect their lower limbs, lesions can easily go unnoticed and grow. This can allow the malignant tumor to spread and become serious. The more the condition progresses, the harder it will be to treat the problem. Periodically checking your feet for changes is the key to catching it early.
Types of Cancer
There are three main types of skin cancer that affect the feet: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma. Basal cell carcinoma is the least aggressive of the three, and isn’t usually found on the feet. It causes local damage, but rarely spreads. Typically lesions appear to be white bumps or patches that can ooze or crust. They may even look like a benign ulcer.
Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common of the skin cancers found on the feet. The condition starts slow and localized, but as the tumor progresses, it can become more aggressive and metastasize to surrounding tissues. These lesions usually appear to be small, scaly plaques or inflamed bumps. The spot is usually painless, but it may itch, crack, and bleed. Often the lesion looks like a wart of even a fungal infection.
Malignant melanoma is the rarest and most dangerous of all the skin cancers. It is highly aggressive and can spread quickly, making it difficult to treat unless it’s caught early. Usually these tumors are painless and look like moles or freckles. Sometimes they develop underneath a nail. Melanoma does have a few distinctive traits, called its “ABCDs:”
- Asymmetry – The tumor has an unusual, uneven shape so that one half is not the same as the other.
- Borders – The borders around the spot appear blurry, ragged, or otherwise uneven.
- Color – The patch has multiple colors, potentially including black, brown, tan, red, or pink.
- Diameter – The lesion is more than six millimeters wide, or roughly bigger than a pencil eraser.
A tumor may have any one or all of these markers. Moles that present these symptoms, or that suddenly change or grow, need to be investigated right away.
Eliminating the Abnormal Growth
The key to eliminating skin cancer on your feet or ankles is to catch the problem early and begin prompt treatment. This will mean checking your feet regularly for changes. Dr. Darren Silvester and the Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic staff will examine any unusual spots. We may need to take a skin biopsy confirm the diagnosis. Once we have identified possible cancerous lesions and their types, we will begin treatment to heal your feet.
Most likely the malignant patch will need to be surgically cut away. This will prevent the tumor from spreading. Once the spot is removed, you may need additional treatment to keep the cells from re-growing. This will depend on the type of tumor you have, as well as the severity of the condition.
Skin cancer is a serious problem that needs immediate attention. Leaving it alone can cause significant damage to your lower limbs. Don’t risk the consequences. Check your skin regularly and let Dr. Darren Silvester at Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic help you treat any problems that arise. You can reach our office in Universal City by calling 210.375.3318 or Pleasanton, TX, by calling (830) 569-3338 or by using the online request page.