​Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is a result of mutatio​n in the skin cells which causes them to grow abnormally and develop cancer cells.

These mutations can be caused by a number of factors, chief amongst which is exposure to too much ultra violet rays (such as from the sun or tanning beds). Other possible reasons include exposure to toxic substances or an indirect result of another disease that has weakened your immune system.

Skin cancer is more common among people with light skin, freckles or blue eyes. However, the following factors also contribute to the risk of skin cancer:

  • Family history of skin cancer

  • Excessive exposure to the sun everyday

  • History of sunburns

  • Exposure to radiation

  • Exposure to toxic substances (such as arsenic)

  • Weakened immune system

  • Moles or lesions on the skin

You can check for skin cancer by examining your whole body thoroughly, including the back, the genital area and even between your toes and fingers for unusual skin changes.

Skin cancer expresses itself through lesions (may be scar like or scaly) or moles (may increase in size or shape or bleed). ​​

If you find any of the above mentioned skin changes that persist over time, have your symptoms examined by your family doctor or you can consult a doctor working with the Oncology Service Line​ at The Aga Khan University Hospital.​​

Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here​ are some tips to help get you started.​​

If cancer is suspected after the examination by the doctor, he/she will remove the lesion or mole and submit it to a laboratory for examination under a microscope. This will confirm if you have skin cancer or not and also what type it is.​​

Depending on the size, location and type of skin cancer you have, as well as your own medical history, your doctor may recommend any one of these following procedures for treatment:

  • Surgery: where the cancer is easily removable, excision surgery is performed to cut away the skin and a bit of the surrounding area to get rid of the cancer cells. In cases where the cancer is more deeply rooted or difficult to treat, Mohs surgery may be performed in which the removal takes place layer by layer in order to remove the cancer cells only and leave as much of the skin intact as possible.

  • Cryosurgery: cancer cells are frozen using liquid nitrogen which is sprayed on the affected skin, killing them. These cells then fall of as the skin defrosts.

  • Curettage and electrodesiccation: cancer cells are scraped away using a surgical tool called curette, after which the affected area is cauterized using an electrical needle which also kills of any remaining cells.

  • Chemotherapy: instead of cutting or physically removing skin tissue, drugs are used to kill the cancer cells.

  • Laser therapy: in cases where the cancer is present on the outer layer of the skin, laser light is used to kill the cells without cutting the skin.

  • Radiation therapy: X-ray beams are used to kill cancer cells and counter their spread.

  • Photodynamic therapy: cancer cells are made sensitive to light using certain drugs and then killed with the use of laser light. ​​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​​

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​​​

The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.