With the hottest months of the summer behind us, it's time to start thinking about skin damage that may have occurred...which means we also have to talk about skin cancer. In that spirit, I want to call your attention to the fact that you could have skin cancer on your feet and not experience any kind of tell-tale foot pain.
Even if you have regular skin checks to rule out skin cancer, many examinations forget the delicate skin on the tops and bottoms of your feet.
Skin Cancer of the Foot is a Different Animal
Skin cancer on your feet is a little different than on the rest of your body, as it’s more commonly the result of a virus than due to exposure to the sun (especially when it manifests on the bottom of your feet.) When you come in for a visit to the office, I always look out for unusual skin patches on the foot, so it’s often a podiatrist like myself, rather than a dermatologist, that diagnoses this condition.
If you are doing a home skin cancer exam (which I highly recommend), you should know the following common features of skin cancers of the feet:
- Feet that keep cracking, itching or bleeding (cancer may have been present for a while but, since it is painless, these signs may be the only recognizable manifestation.)
- Non-healing sores, bumps that crack and/or bleed, nodules with rolled edges or scaly areas may all be indications of skin cancer of the feet.
- Pearly white bumps and or oozy patches that get crusty could be indicators of basal cell cancers. On the foot, basal cell cancers can often be mistaken for non-cancerous skin tumors or benign ulcers.
- Small, scaly bumps (possibly appearing to be inflamed) can be a sign of early-squamous cell carcinoma, the most common type of skin cancer of the foot. Painless but itchy, this type of cancer is often misdiagnosed as a plantar wart, fungal infection, eczema, or ulcer. If caught early, it can usually be contained to the skin of the foot but, if left untreated, this cancer can spread and become deadly.
The only way to confirm whether or not an unusual patch of skin on your foot is cancerous is to have your podiatrist perform a skin biopsy, which is a simple procedure in which a small sample of skin is obtained and sent to a lab for a skin pathologist to examine. If the biopsy determines you have skin cancer, your podiatrist will help you determine your next course of action. Each year, about 2 million Americans are diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancers. The best hope for positive outcomes after a diagnosis are early detection and treatment.
What Other Kinds of Cancer Appear on Your Feet?
While many skin cancers on your feet are viral, sun exposure can also be the culprit. Malignant melanoma is one of the most common forms of skin cancer, with one in five Americans diagnosed at some point in their lifetime. This statistic is largely due to the damaging effect of the sun. In our Houston climate, it is common to wear open shoes much of the year, which puts our feet at significant risk of developing melanoma.
Like other cancers, melanoma is often assumed to be something else. This leads to a delay in identifying and treating the cancer. When it comes to melanoma, early detection is the key!
If a lesion is suspicious, identification is a simple process. A small injection to numb the area, followed by a shave or punch of the lesion will give us all the information we need to ensure you do not have cancer. There is no down time, no stitches, and the whole procedure takes about five minutes.
In a matter of days, we will have the results and be able to treat it if necessary. The first step is for you to get it checked! If you have noticed a spot on your foot or ankle that has been changing in size or color, contact Houston podiatrist Dr. Andrew Schneider. We'll be able to see if it is something to be concerned about and give you the piece of mind that you need.