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Feel free to go to the health center and show them any places that are new or starting to change. It is always easier to treat it at an early stage. Photo: Getty Images

Skin tumors are the most common form of cancer in Sweden at the moment. The more times you get burned in the sun over the years, the greater the risk. But many skin changes are easy to remove if you seek care at an early stage. The problem is that many people wait too long.

Ulrika Palmkrantz

published 03-07-2024

Inkeri Schultz.

Inkeri Schultz Chief Physician and Plastic Surgeon at Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm and Operations Director for Skin Oncology in the Stockholm-Jutland region. In her practice, she is seeing a significant increase in the number of elderly patients with large skin tumors who have waited too long to see a doctor.
– It is best treated when the tumors are small and can be easily removed surgically under local anesthesia. You don't have to think “that's not an idea” and wait, as it can get more complicated, she believes.
She believes it's common for people to think that “now that I'm older, there's no point in seeking care.” Perhaps even relatives and even doctors sometimes think this way. But this is a completely wrong way to think.

– If you see a sign If it's new or starting to change, or it might be itchy or painful, you should definitely go and check with your doctor right away, Inkeri says. We have seen many cases of skin tumors that started as a very small tumor but timely care was not sought and since then they have grown rapidly. Hence, it may be more difficult to find a good therapeutic alternative than if the patient had sought care at an earlier stage.
So when should you react and seek care?
– You should act when there are wounds of an unclear nature, or when the wounds do not want to heal, or when the spots begin to change. Squamous cell carcinoma is on the rise. It can be small and discreet at first, but then grows at a fairly rapid pace.

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Basal cell carcinoma is one Another very common skin tumor that starts out as a small, innocent bump. All new skin changes should be checked.
Inkeri Schultz is concerned that the number of older people with skin cancer is increasing and that many of them are taking too long to get help in the best possible way.
– Even before the pandemic, we saw that the number of serious skin cancer cases among older people rose and has continued since then. When tumors grow large, they can cause pain and an unpleasant odor, making some people ashamed of others. It is completely unnecessary suffering. When tumors develop into large cysts with open wounds, they are more difficult to treat and usually cannot be removed under local anesthesia. Radiation therapy is also not always an option because many elderly people are too weak to tolerate this type of treatment.

As for the elderly Those who have home care or live in a nursing home, Inkeri believes that it is a challenge for the staff and sometimes relatives as well to help the patient get timely care.
It is not always easy for older people to see the appearance of small spots or boils.
– As I said, the argument that it is “not an idea” is not valid. If you get there in time, it can often be treated quite easily, but if you let the tumor grow, it can be a major intervention requiring anesthesia.

The biggest risk factor For skin tumors it is the sun. The more sun you are exposed to during your life and the more times you burn, the greater your risk of developing it.
-We go out in the sun a lot, we're Swedish. Among today's seniors, many have been out in the sun a lot during their lives.
Inkeri herself would never lie on the beach and sunbathe for hours.
– No, I don't think sunbathing is fun. I would never go on a pure, sunny vacation. But if you do, you should anyway consider avoiding the sun when it is strongest between 11am and 3pm. And of course to protect yourself with sunscreen and clothing. It's simple tricks that make an impact.

Three common forms of skin cancer

Superficial basal cell carcinoma.

Basal cell carcinoma
Also called Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. It's not life-threatening, but it's still important to get treatment. The risk of developing the disease is small before age 40, but increases as you get older. Symptoms are a new skin change that can be a lump or a small spot. It can be the same color as the skin, or be red, pink, white, brown, or semi-transparent. It can look like eczema but doesn't get better no matter how much you oil it. It may also be a wound that does not heal or come back.
Seek care at a health center if you think you have basal cell carcinoma. They can either find out immediately if this is the case, or take a sample called a skin biopsy. It is important to remove the basal cell carcinoma so that the surrounding skin is not damaged. There are several different treatment methods depending on how advanced the disease is. They can be frozen with liquid nitrogen spray, scraped off, or burned under local anesthesia. After this treatment, it takes about 4-6 weeks for the wound to fully heal. You may also have surgery to remove the basal cell carcinoma and suture the wound. There is also a form of mild treatment and immune boosting cream. If none of this works, you can receive radiation therapy.

Squamous cell carcinoma.

Squamous cell carcinoma
Is this a form of Skin cancer, which is increasing more than others. The most common symptom of squamous cell carcinoma is the appearance of a spot or nodule on the face, neck, scalp, or tops of the hands. That is, in places exposed to a lot of sun.
The spot may be the same color as the skin or be pale red. They can also be covered in hard scales. In some cases, it is also painful and painful.
There is a precursor to squamous cell carcinoma, which is a change that grows on the surface of the skin and is called squamous cell carcinoma in situ or Bowen's disease.
Eventually, the change can begin to grow within the skin and turn into invasive squamous cell carcinoma. If the disease is invasive, you may need surgery because it can spread.
If the wound is not very large, the wound can be easily sutured together, and if it is larger, you may sometimes need to transplant skin from other parts of the body. But simple cases of squamous cell carcinoma can be treated just like basal cell carcinoma, by freezing, scraping or burning.

Malignant skin cancer.

Malignant skin cancer
It is the most dangerous A form of skin cancer. Most people who develop melanoma have burned themselves several times in the sun, but almost everyone who receives early treatment goes through the disease.
The most common symptom of melanoma is the appearance of a completely new spot or nodule that has grown or changed in appearance. It could also be a birthmark that you had in the past and is starting to change.
Melanoma can be different, but all types can start to grow inside the skin and spread
To other parts of the body. The doctor performs the operation to remove the skin change. If it is small, local anesthesia is sufficient and you can return home immediately afterward. The skin change is then sent to a laboratory to find out if it is skin cancer.
If it turns out to be skin cancer, you'll often have to have another operation to remove more tissue around the scar and prevent it from spreading further.