What is Bowen’s disease?

The very early form of skin cancer, Bowen’s disease is becoming common these days. It starts with red and scaly patches on the skin. Well, if you are not aware of this, here is a short guide explaining it in detail. 

You must be known to the skin disease, ‘skin cancer’, isn’t it? But do you know about the early form of squamous cell skin cancer? Yes, there exists a primary stage which is termed as Bowen’s disease. Defined as the abnormal growth of the squamous cells, the outermost layer of skin, it is also known as squamous cell carcinoma in situ (SCC in situ). In simple words, it is a form of skin cancer.

The patches will appear on the skin surfaces frequently exposed to the sun. It can also be assisted by some itch, crust or ooze. But, it is not necessary. As in most of the cases, the patient doesn’t feel any such thing. And, this is the major reason why it is often mistaken for fungus, rashes, eczema, or psoriasis. Moreover, it can be sometime appear brown and appear like a keratosis or a melanoma. 

What causes Bowen’s disease?

Generally, it develops due to long-term sun exposure and people with fair skin tone are more prone to it. The other reason, which is not very often, is in the context of previous radiotherapy. This disease neither causes any type of allergy nor is it infectious. The other good thing about this disorder is that it doesn’t passes to the families. Also it is not contagious as other diseases like scabies, which can transfer from person to person.  

Who all are more affected?

Regardless of caste, creed, gender, etc. it can happen to anyone, both women than men. Generally, it is common among the older people, who are in their 70s- 80s. Secondly, it is more likely to affect the people who are undergoing the process or taking medication to suppress their immune system.

What are the symptoms?

  • This disorder usually appears as a stubborn reddened scaly patch on the skin.  It can be a patch of 1-3cm in diameter. It may or may not be itchy.
  • The reddened patches sometimes appear as raised spots and often appear as warts. They might appear red and sore. Sometimes, they may bleed and scab too.
  • Bowenoid papulosis, which occurs on the pubic or genital area in men and women, looks like brown patch around the groin area.
  • White patches on the skin also occur and are called as leukoplakia.

What are the treatment options?

The dermatologist can suggest you a number of treatment options. But, what to choose will depend on the type of patches on your body. The size, thickness and number of patches will decide for the most appropriate procedure.

  • Cryotherapy – It is a painful procedure. To freeze the affected skin surface, liquid nitrogen is sprayed. This causes discomfort and the same can stay for a bit longer time, in some cases up to a few days. After the treatment, the area looks like blister and weep. Moreover the patch can scab over and it can take a few weeks to remove it.
  • Chemotherapy cream: A number of creams are available, which can be applied to the affected skin regularly for a particular period of time. But the regular uses of such creams, also known as imiquimod cream, may cause your skin to become red and inflamed before it gets better. 
  • Curettage and cautery: In this type of treatment, the affected area of skin is scraped under the local anaesthetic. After this, to stop any bleeding, heat or electricity is used. The treatment leaves you with an area to scab over. It takes up to few weeks to heal.  
  • Photodynamic therapy: A therapy in which a laser is directed onto the skin four to six hours later after application of a light-sensitive cream. It destroys the abnormal cells significantly. The treatment session is about 20 to 45 minutes. Later, the treated skin area is covered to protect it from light. 
  • Surgery: Although it is not the best way out, yet it is done when there is greater number of patches found. In this case, the abnormal skin is cut out and stitches are done if needed.

Hopefully, now you are known to Bowen’s disease in a better way!

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