What is Bowen’s Disease?
Bowen’s disease is also known as squamous cell carcinoma in situ . This disease is easily curable. The cells make up the outer layer of skin. All the cancerous cells are in the top layer. The cancer cells may spread along the top layer, but it is a very slow moving process, and could take years to do. Only 3 to 5 % of patients with Bowen’s disease experience the disease moving into deeper layers of the skin. In this case, it would turn into another form of skin cancer. If left untreated, there are risks that could be associated with it.
Bowen’s Disease Symptoms
Bowen’s disease can effect any portion of the skin. It is commonly seen on the arms, legs and trunk. It will most likely appear as a scaly patch on the skin that is red, and may or may not itch. It is about 1 to 3 cm in diameter. The skin can bleed, scab over and be sore. It is more common in woman then in men and will usually effect those that are in their 70s to 80s. More often than not, it will appear on those that have had lots of exposure to the sun, and is seen on many with fair skin. However, it has been known to show up in areas that would not see exposure to sunlight, such as the genitals. It is common to effect those that are taking medications to suppress the immune system.
Bowen’s Disease is not genetic, and it can not be passed through skin contact. It is rarely related to arsenic exposure. One is at more of a risk for developing Bowen’s disease if they have had radiotherapy in the effected area.
Bowen’s Disease Treatments
There are many treatments available for Bowen disease. A dermatologist will examine the skin, looking at the size and thickness, as well as the number of patches on the skin to determine the best treatment option. Treatment options include:
- Cryotherapy- The effected skin will be sprayed with nitrogen in a liquid form. The effected area could weep and blister, and a scab will form. The scab will fall off within a few weeks, and remove the effected skin.
- Curettage and Cautery- The skin that is effected is scraped away. Local anesthetics are used. Heat or electricity will stop any bleeding. The area will scab over, and heal within a few weeks.
- Photodynamic Therapy- Effected skin will have a light sensitive cream applied to it. A laser will be moved over the skin 4 to 6 hours later, which will destroy all abnormal cells. One will need more than one treatment with photodynamic therapy. It takes about 45 minutes to do the process. After the laser treatment is done, a bandage will be applied to protect the skin from light.
- Imiquimod Cream or Chemotherapy cream- The cream will be applied to the skin that is effected over a period of time. Skin could become red and inflamed with use.
- Surgery- Abnormal skin cells are cut out, with stitches needed more than likely. This works well if there is just a small patch.
Bowen’s disease is fully treatable, however, it is best to have it treated right away before damage is further done. With a wide range of treatments, you and your dermatologist will be able to successfully remove the effected skin. It will take time to heal back into normal skin. Do note that if the effected treated skin begins to bleed or change in appearance, such as a lump developing, one should see their dermatologist immediately. Always follow up protocol that the doctor has set up, such as applying sunscreen and wearing protective clothing.