Cancer is an increasingly recognized problem in our society. We hear about problems like breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, and leukemia, which all attack different structures in the body. Have you ever considered, however, that you can develop it in your feet? Though not nearly as talked about, malignant tumors and lesions in your feet are some of the most deadly of the cancers.
The Hidden Problem
Just like any other place in your body, the tissues in your feet can develop problem cells that grow out of control. Those tumors occur most frequently in the skin and bone of the foot. Most of the cancers that affect the feet do not easily spread, or metastasize, to other parts of the body, but several can and do. If caught early, all the affected cells could be treated aggressively with a high chance of success. Because most people do not examine their feet for abnormalities on a regular basis, however, many tumors or lesions are not noticed until they have had plenty of time to worsen.
Like every other cancer, you can develop different kinds in your lower limbs:
Basal cell carcinoma—This develops from sun exposure. The lesions appear as white bumps or patches and may ooze, or look like an ulcer. The least aggressive of the skin cancers, it rarely spreads beyond the original spots, but like any other, can becomes serious if left untreated.
Squamous cell carcinoma—This is the most common type found on the feet. The affected areas form itchy, scaly lesions or plaques. They may look inflamed but otherwise feel painless. The condition often resembles other common problems, like fungal infections or ulcers. If caught early, this cancer usually does not metastasize, but it can if left untreated.
Melanoma—The most deadly of the skin cancers, if not caught and treated early, the damage can be severe. It often appears to be a dark spot, a bump on the foot, or under a toenail, though it can come in multiple colors. Usually it is uneven and irregular in its shape. This form spreads easily and quickly throughout the body, making it challenging to treat.
Bone cancers—Many benign tumors develop in the feet. They stay contained and may not cause pain, though they can weaken a bone and make it more likely to crack and break. Only occasionally do these tumors develop into malignant cancers. Most aggressive tumors found in the bones of your feet are actually metastasized cells. On rare occasions, they can be true malignant bone cancers.
Minimizing the Damage
No one is sure what causes cells to change and become malignant, so it is not always something that can be prevented. You can, however, minimize your risks. Check your feet daily when you wash and dry them for any unusual changes, like lumps, bumps, discolored spots, or skin lesions. Protect your feet from the sun by using sunscreen to prevent damage that could lead to developing skin cancer. Don’t ignore spots that do not seem to be healing, are unusual in shape, or seem to grow in size. Instead, contact the doctors at Advanced Foot & Ankle Specialists of Arizona to have the spot or lump evaluated—even if it isn’t a malignant tumor, knowing is better than risking life-threatening damage.
Don’t ignore visible changes in your feet, hoping they get better on their own. Those odd lesions or bumps could be signs of cancers that, if left untreated, could end up deadly. If you are concerned by unusual spots on your feet or toes, contact Advanced Foot & Ankle Specialists of Arizona for an appointment or more information. You can reach our offices by calling—(480) 963-9000 or sending a fax to (480) 963-0375 for the Chandler office and (480) 981-1800, (480) 981-0229 (fax) for the Gilbert location. You can also visit the online contact page.