Are Pilonidal Cysts Cancerous?
When you or someone close to you is diagnosed with pilonidal disease, you might be concerned about the prognosis for this condition. You might even wonder, "Are pilonidal cysts cancerous?"
Fortunately, although they are unpleasant, pilonidal cysts rarely pose an extreme danger. In a very few cases, the site can develop cancerous growths, but the chances of this happening to you are quite slim.
If you're still concerned about the relationship between pilonidal disease and cancer, keep reading. Learning how rarely cancer occurs in pilonidal sinuses will hopefully put your mind at ease.
A Benign Anorectal Condition
Pilonidal cysts, better known as pilonidal sinuses, are not inherently cancerous. Rather, this is a benign skin condition that is caused by irritation in skin tissue.
A cavity forms in the tissue, and it can become a collection spot for hair, dead skin, dirt, oil and bacteria. This debris can become infected, and blood and pus may accumulate.
When infected, a pilonidal sinus becomes an abscess. It can cause pain, tenderness, swelling and fluid discharge. You may feel a lump or a mass on your skin. Although none of these symptoms are pleasant, they are normal side effects of a pilonidal abscess. They are not signs of a malignant growth.
Rare Instances of Pilonidal Skin Cancer
Every once in a while, however, a person who suffers from pilonidal disease may develop skin cancer at the affected site.
This is most likely to happen in individuals who deal with chronic, recurring abscesses over the course of many years. On average, people suffer with pilonidal disease for over 20 years before they receive a related skin cancer diagnosis.
When infection of a pilonidal sinus is a chronic problem, the tissue is exposed to long-term inflammation and irritation. Over time, this causes a build-up of damage, which can leave the tissue susceptible to the development of malignant cells in the area.
For that reason, cancer sometimes occurs in people who have other anorectal conditions in addition to chronic pilonidal sinuses. For example, some in some reported cases, the affected patient has suffered from both a chronic abscess and an anal fistula.
The type of skin cancer most often associated with pilonidal sinuses is squamous cell carcinoma. This is a malignancy that can occur anywhere on the body. It often develops in areas that are exposed to sunlight, but it can also arise in areas that never see the sun, such as the inside of a pilonidal sinus.
You can learn more about squamous cell carcinoma in the video below:
Approximately 0.7 percent of people suffer from pilonidal sinuses. Only a small fraction of these people will deal with cancer at the site. One study suggests that the rate of cancer occurrence among those with pilonidal disease is only 0.1 percent. Around 70 cases have been reported in medical literature.
Protecting Yourself Against Serious Complications
Squamous cell carcinoma, the form of cancer that is usually associated with pilonidal cysts, is generally considered a less aggressive disease than other types of skin cancer, especially melanoma.
Squamous cell carcinoma does not usually spread quickly, so it can often be treated long before it spreads to the lymph nodes and other parts of the body. However, squamous cell carcinoma that goes untreated for a long stretch of time can spread. Eventually, it has the potential to lead to death.
Cancer that is inside a pilonidal sinus complicates the prognosis, however, because the carcinoma may go undetected for a very long time. Symptoms can easily be mistaken for normal side effects of the infection.
To help protect against undetected cancer, it is a good idea for anyone with a pilonidal sinus to be under the care of a physician. The doctor can provide treatment recommendations and can stay apprised of any changes at the site. Any new symptoms or concerns should always be reported to the doctor.
Early treatment of a pilonidal sinus is advisable. Although abscesses can recur, many patients find that surgical procedures are effective at keeping their pilonidal disease from becoming a chronic condition.
Fortunately, most people with pilonidal cysts will never have to worry about developing skin cancer at the site. Pilonidal sinuses are not inherently cancerous, and the tissue rarely develops a malignancy. The chance that you'll ever have to deal with a cancerous pilonidal sinus is extremely slim.
Hopefully, this knowledge sets your worries at ease so you can focus all your attention on effectively healing your pilonidal sinus.
As with all medical issues, your physician is the ultimate source as to what procedure best fits your needs. Discuss all options and get a second opinion if you have any doubts. These articles are intended to be a source of general information only.