Recently, a case was brought to a hospital in the U.K where a 50-year-old man developed a five inches long ‘dragon horn’ on his back due to untreated skin cancer.
Skin cancers refer to the abnormal growth of skin cells, most often on the skin exposed to the sun. However, it can also form on areas not ordinarily out in the open. There are three major types: basal-cell skin cancer, squamous-cell skin cancer, and melanoma.
The basal-cell skin cancer grows slowly and is unlikely to spread to different cells, however, it leads to tissue damage around the point of origin and in most cases results in death. Squamous-cell skin cancer is more likely to spread and usually presents itself as a hard lump with a scaly top. Melanomas are the most aggressive and can spread to various parts of the body in the least time.
In the last week of December, an unnamed 50-year-old man was brought in a hospital in the U.K, complaining of a lesion that had been growing on his back for 3 years. The lesion had developed into a horn-like structure and was 5.5 inches long and 2.3 inches wide according to the BMJ Case Reports.
The patient underwent an extensive tissue removal surgery where the protrusion was removed, and the skin was patched up by a skin graft from his thigh.
The man was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common form of non-melanoma skin cancer. The cancer forms in the flat squamous cells called the epidermis and make up for about 20% of the skin cancer cases.
According to the authors of the reports, “Dragon horn SCC”, the number of cases of squamous cell carcinoma in the U.S. and Europe has been increasing for the past few years. However, “most cases are diagnosed and treated early before becoming ‘dragon horns’”.
The number of cases of skin cancer involved a higher percentage of people with light skin and those who had high exposure to sunlight and other forms of ultraviolet radiation, viral human papillomavirus (HPV) and substances such as arsenic.
According to the authors, “This highlights that despite current public skin cancer awareness and rigorous healthcare measures, cases like this can still arise and slip through the net”.
Symptoms of Squamous cell Skin Cancer (SCC)
SCC is a fairly slow-growing cancer and can spread to tissues, bones and nearby lymph nodes. It usually begins as a dome-shaped bump or a red, scaly patch of skin. It’s usually rough and crusty – like a scab – and can bleed easily when scraped. Following are some symptoms you should look out for:
- A firm red nodule
- A flat sore with a scaly top
- A sore in an old scar or ulcer
- Rough scaly patch on your skin that may evolve to an open sore
- Red bumps or patches on your lips, inside your mouth, near or inside the anus or your genitals.
If the scab or the flat patch doesn’t go away for about 2 months, you should consult a doctor right away.
About human papillomavirus (HPV)
Human papillomavirus is the most common sexually transmitted disease. It is usually harmless and goes away itself, but some types may lead to cancer or genital warts.
There are more than 200 types of HPV, out of which about 40 can infect your genitalia. Although there is no cure for the disease, it can be prevented using protection and getting vaccinated.