The Link Between Ulcer and Cancer


Most of the cancers on the skin and mucosal membranes can present as ulcers. But that doesn’t mean every ulcer will eventually lead to a cancerous lesion.

The Link Between Ulcer and Cancer

What is an Ulcer?

Ulcer is a break in continuity of a bodily membrane i.e., epithelium, either skin or mucous membrane, which can affect the normal function of the involved organ.

Read on – What is Cancer?

Causes of Ulcer

An ulcer can happen due to a plethora of reasons.

  • Traumatic: Mechanical, chemical, physical (electrical, radiation)
  • Vascular: Arterial and venous ulcers
  • Malignant: cancers of skin, Gi mucosa
  • Metabolic: Diabetes
  • Malnutrition: Beri Beri
  • Inflammatory: cellulitis
  • Infective: TB, syphilis, fungal infections
  • Neurogenic: bed sores, peripheral neuropathies

As specified, cancers only account to a small portion of the wide variety of ulcers.

So, it is imperative to identify these cancer ulcers to intervene early. The identification of these ulcers depends on the organ or area of their involvement. For better understanding, if we divide them into cancer ulcers of the skin and that of mucus membranes.

Any ulcer over the skin that does not heal for more than 21 days is a concern and needs a biopsy for confirmation of the cause. Ulcer cancers of the mucous membranes are difficult to notice as symptoms may appear a little late.

These symptoms depend on their location. Oral cavity ulcers are the easiest of the mucous membrane lesions to notice. Other mucosal lesions are more commonly manifested with bleeding signs (Malena, hematemesis or haematochezia) or obstructive signs.

Any doubt needs further evaluation with upper GI endoscopy or Colonoscopy to identify such ulcers and biopsy confirm them.

So, one need not panic if they happen to develop an ulcer, but one needs to be cautious if it lasts for more than 3 weeks. If so, it warrants your doctor consultation to confirm the cause of the ulcer.

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