Cancer is a frightening word. Almost everyone knows someone who has battled the disease. It slowly takes over the body and affects it dramatically, weakening and damaging it. However, while many people watch parts of their bodies carefully for malignant changes, some don’t consider cancer in the feet as a dangerous possibility.
Cancer is uncontrolled cell growth that can invade other tissues and destroy them. The malignant spot starts small, and may progress slowly or rapidly, depending on the type of tumor and how aggressive it is. The two most common types of cancer found in the feet are bone and skin varieties.
Growing in the Bones
Cancer in your bones is often a complication of another type of cancer elsewhere in your body. The cancerous cells travel through the blood stream and damage bone tissue as well. Bone cancer that actually starts in your skeleton is frequently benign, or non-cancerous. However, sometimes a malignant growth begins in your hard tissue. Osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, and Ewing’s sarcoma are the most common kinds.
You experience foot pain where the tumor develops. The condition also weakens those bones, making it more likely you’ll develop fractures from otherwise small injuries. The malignant growth can begin anywhere in your bone structure, including the marrow and hard outer covering. As it worsens, it metastasizes—or spreads—to other tissues, making the problem harder and harder to manage.
Damaging the Skin
Skin tumors are far more common, but not necessarily less serious. There are three main types of skin cancer in the feet, each progressively more dangerous: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma. Basal cell carcinoma is usually related to damage from the sun and tends to stay locally in the skin. Usually it looks like a white bump, pearly patch, or open sore. Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common cancer in the feet. It’s slightly more aggressive and may metastasize if not properly cared for. Usually it looks like a scaly plaque that may crack, bleed, or appear inflamed.
Malignant melanoma is the most dangerous of the skin cancers, and can become deadly if not caught early enough. It usually spreads quite rapidly, making it difficult to treat. It can be hard to detect as well, since it may resemble some other conditions. It can appear anywhere on the tops or soles of the lower limbs, including underneath a toenail. Usually it looks like a small brown lump, though it may appear pink or red. The symptoms to watch for are lesions with asymmetry, irregular borders of pigment, changes in color, and possibly a diameter of more than 6 mm.
Controlling the Unchecked Growth
Like cancerous tumors anywhere else on your body, the key to recovery is early detection. Check your feet regularly for changes, and don’t ignore unusual lumps, bumps, or skin alterations. Instead, have anything unusual examined by a specialist like Dr. Sanjay Patel. Our team can examine these spots and use a variety of tests, like biopsies, to diagnose cancer in the foot. That way, you can get the help you need.
The specific treatment you require will depend entirely on the type of tumor and its severity. Conservative methods like medications may work for some tumors. Others may need surgery and aggressive systemic therapies to prevent the problem from worsening.
If you’re concerned about changes you’ve noticed in your lower limbs, whether odd bumps or skin lesions, let our team of specialists at Family Foot Care & Surgery, L.L.C., know right away. Early detection is the real key to recovering from cancer in the feet. You can reach our Milford and Hamden locations by calling or using the online request form. To call, dial (203) 876-7736 for the Milford office, or (203) 288-4055 for the Hamden location.