Treatment Options For Bowen’s Disease: Causes And Symptoms

Bowen disease is a skin condition which is caused by an anomalous growth of cells in the outer layer of the skin. Untreated, it can progress in to squamous cell cancer.

A huge risk factor for the development of Bowen’s disease is prolonged exposure to the sun. Bowen’s disease in the genital area is related to the human papilloma virus.

Symptoms And Causes Of Bowen’s Disease

The condition can develop anywhere on the body, however, it commonly occurs on the lower legs. Initially, it manifests as a red, scaly patch. The affected skin is sore, itchy and may bleed. Given its resemblance to other skin diseases, it is very essential that you get it checked by a dermatologist.

Causes of Bowen Disease

  • Prolonged exposure to the sun is an important risk factor. On the other hand, it is known to manifest in areas which have not been exposed to the sun too.
  • Earlier radiation therapy is another risk factor.
  • An exposure to arsenic may be a trigger.
  • Those who take drugs which lower immunity are at risk for developing Bowen disease.
  • Infrequently, Bowen disease afflicts the genital area. This is associated with the human papilloma virus.

Treatment Options For Bowen’s Disease

The treatment depends upon the location, size, thickness and number of patches. Bowen’s disease progresses rather slowly, thus, if you have a thin patch which is not changing, your dermatologist will advocate observation and regular follow-ups.

Treatments options are:

  • Cryotherapy: Liquid nitrogen is sprayed on the affected area. A scab is formed which falls off in a couple of weeks. This gets rid of the affected skin.
  • Cream: A chemotherapy cream called 5-fluorouracil is used over a period of time. It will cause some redness and irritation, and then Bowen’s disease improves.
  • Curettage and Electrocautery: Scraping away the affected portion and using heat or electricity to stop any bleeding are helpful. You will be given a local anesthetic and then the area is scraped away. Thereafter, an electrically heated needle is employed to halt the bleeding and destroy abnormal cells. After this a scar develops.
  • Photodynamic therapy: Photodynamic therapy is used for option large areas of Bowen’s disease. Light combined with a light-sensitive drug helps destroy the abnormal cells. A photosensitising cream is applied and 4 hours later, a special light is shone on to the area for 15 minutes. Subsequently a dressing is placed over the area to protect it from light.
  • Surgery: Small areas of Bowen’s disease are managed with surgery under local anesthesia. This is not a good option for large patches of Bowen’s disease.
  • Laser therapy: Laser treatment makes use of intense light energy to get rid of the tissue. It is used as a treatment for Bowen’s disease afflicting the finger or genitals.

Your health care provider / dermatologist will explain to your the various procedures and techniques along with the benefits and risks; based up on you condition, he will recommend what is optimal for you. One treatment or combined procedures may be required.

After treatment you may need a couple of follow-ups and then visit the doctor if you notice any skin changes. You may also need to join a support group or participate in counseling to manage your stress better.