The experience of discovering something new growing on our skin is unsettling. As common as skin growths are, our first thoughts tend to veer toward the extreme: that our newly discovered bump or abnormal lesion is a sign of skin cancer. While this is a possibility that should always be taken seriously and assessed by your dermatologist as soon as possible, there are countless other forms of skin growth that range in severity from a blemish that is merely unsightly to something far more serious.
Typically, these growths are either tumors or cysts and knowing the difference between the two is the first step in identifying potential concerns and ultimately keeping your skin free of harm.
A Few Key Differences Between Tumors and Cysts
It can be difficult to distinguish between tumors and cysts, especially for the untrained eye. Although these two forms of growth can appear similar in appearance, their makeup is very different.
Tumors are caused when abnormal cells mass together and accumulate rather than shed naturally. Typically, cells die off and are replaced by new and healthier cells. When this process is interrupted, old and damaged cells will continue to multiply, eventually forming a tumor.
There are three main classifications of tumors: benign, premalignant, and malignant. Benign tumors are often entirely harmless. However, it’s important to note that some benign tumors can turn malignant, so treatment is recommended depending on the type of tumor diagnosed.
Cysts, on the other hand, are formed when a pocket of tissue becomes filled with either fluid, air, or another substance produced in our bodies. Common cysts that arise on our skin can either form from the outermost layer of the skin or within a hair follicle. They can sometimes be tender to the touch, become red or swollen, and prove burdensome. However, cysts are mostly harmless, and many can be easily treated.
How to Treat a Cyst
It’s not uncommon for a Vanguard specialist to discover a cyst during an appointment with a patient. Ashton Radcliffe, our practice manager at Vanguard, states, “Many times, a patient will ask if they can have their cyst removed during their consultation. However, our provider team has to evaluate the cyst first to make sure that we are the correct type of specialist to treat it, and that treating it in the office will be safe for the patient. Some cysts require treatment in the operating room by a different type of specialist, and we always want to make sure we are recommending the safest and most effective treatment for each patient.”
Always keeping both the health and financial security of our patients in mind, Ashton goes on to say, “Performing an evaluation first also gives us a chance to check with the patient’s insurance to see if any authorization is required to remove the cyst and to provide the patient an estimate of the cost.”
When In Doubt, Always Defer to the Expertise of Your Dermatologist
We always recommend that patients stay vigilant at home by performing routine skin checks. However, it is always best to make an appointment whenever you feel unsure of something on your skin, especially if it is a newly discovered growth.