What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Melanoma
Melanoma is a skin cancer that can show up on the skin in many ways. It can look like a:
Spot that looks like a new mole, freckle, or age spot, but it looks different from the others on your skin
Spot that has a jagged border, more than one color, and is growing
Dome-shaped growth that feels firm and may look like a sore, which may bleed
Dark-brown or black vertical line beneath a fingernail or toenail
Band of darker skin around a fingernail or toenail
Slowly growing patch of thick skin that looks like a scar
This early melanoma could be mistaken for a mole, so its important to look carefully at the spots on your skin.
How Does Metastatic Melanoma Spread
Melanoma occurs when melanocyte cells found in the epidermis start growing excessively and take over surrounding tissues. These cells can develop from existing moles or skin growths. But, more commonly, they start as new growth. Once melanoma has begun growing in the skin, it can become and spread to new sites through the lymphatic system or blood vessels.
When it has spread beyond the skin, and into the lymph nodes or distant organs. Like the liver, lungs, brain, bone or soft tissues, it is considered metastatic melanoma.
Metastatic melanoma can be treated through surgeries to remove the tumors with:
Treatments Of Skin Cancer
Regardless of which of the 3 types of skin cancer you have, there are a number of treatment options available. According to the Mayo Clinic, the best treatment for you will depend on a number of factors, including the size, depth, and location of the skin cancer. Sometimes a combination of treatments is recommended. With all types of skin cancer, early diagnosis and treatment is key to survival, so see your doctor about anything unusual going on with your skin.
Treatment options for skin cancer include:
If youve been diagnosed with skin cancer, you are probably very worried. Most types of skin cancer are very treatable, though. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options as well as your prognosis.
Recommended Reading: How To Determine Skin Cancer
Also Check: Survival Rates For Invasive Ductal Carcinoma
Treatment For Skin Cancer
If you are diagnosed with skin cancer, you may have multiple options for treatment. Based on the specifics of your case, your doctor will recommend your best course of action. The suggested methods for fighting the cancer may include:
Cryotherapy. In cryotherapy, a doctor freezes and kills precancerous or cancerous skin cells using liquid nitrogen. This technique is most often used to treat minor basal or squamous carcinomas or precancerous skin conditions.
Surgery. Different types of skin cancer may be removed by surgery. Surgery can be excisional – simply cutting out a cancerous area and the skin surrounding it – or may involve meticulous removal of layers of skin.
Radiation therapy. In radiation therapy, energy beams are used to kill cancerous cells. Radiation therapy may help finish off a cancer that was not fully removed by surgery, and can also be instrumental in cases that dont allow for surgery.
Chemotherapy. This type of therapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. To treat some cases of skin cancer, chemotherapy may be applied locally through topical creams or lotions. It may also be administered by IV to target multiple body parts at once.
Immunotherapy. Immunotherapy, also called biological therapy, involves boosting the immune system to fight cancer cells. With the help of strengthening medicines, the immune system may be better prepared to kill cancerous cells.
How Does Skin Cancer Become A Life
You may wonder how cancer on the surface of your skin becomes a life-threatening cancer. It seems logical to think you could just scrape off the skin with the cancer cells or even remove the cancerous skin lesion with a minor skin surgery and thats all that would be needed. These techniques are successfully used if cancer is caught early.
But if skin cancer isnt caught early, something thats just on my skin can grow and spread beyond the immediate area. Cancer cells break away and travel through the bloodstream or lymph system. The cancer cells settle in other areas of your body and begin to grow and develop into new tumors. This travel and spread is called metastasis.
The type of cancer cell where cancer first started called primary cancer determines the type of cancer. For example, if malignant melanoma metastasized to the lungs, the cancer would still be called malignant melanoma. This is how that superficial skin cancer can turn into life-threatening cancer.
Recommended Reading: Melanoma 3c
Types Of Skin Malignancies:
- Melanoma the least common form of skin cancer, but responsible for more deaths per year than squamous cell and basal cell skin cancers combined. Melanoma is also more likely to spread and may be harder to control.
- Nonmelanoma malignancies:
These skin malignancies are typically caused by ultraviolet radiation from exposure to the sun and tanning beds.
Who Is Most At Risk For Skin Cancer
Although anyone can develop skin cancer, youre at increased risk if you:
- Spend a considerable amount of time working or playing in the sun.
- Get easily sunburned have a history of sunburns.
- Live in a sunny or high-altitude climate.
- Tan or use tanning beds.
- Have light-colored eyes, blond or red hair and fair or freckled skin.
- Have many moles or irregular-shaped moles.
- Have actinic keratosis .
- Have a family history of skin cancer.
- Have had an organ transplant.
- Take medications that suppress or weaken your immune system.
- Have been exposed to ultraviolet light therapy for treating skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis.
Don’t Miss: How Fast Does Cancer Kill
How Common Is Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in the U.S.
Other skin cancer facts:
- Around 20% of Americans develop skin cancer sometime in their life.
- Approximately 9,500 Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer every day.
- Having five or more sunburns in your life doubles your chance of developing melanoma. The good news is that the five-year survival rate is 99% if caught and treated early.
- Non-Hispanic white persons have almost a 30 times higher rate of skin cancer than non-Hispanic Black or Asian/Pacific Islander persons.
- Skin cancer in people with skin of color is often diagnosed in later stages when its more difficult to treat. Some 25% of melanoma cases in African Americans are diagnosed when cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
Skin Cancer Warning Signs
The main symptom of skin cancer is a mole or other growth on your skin. To find these growths, you need to look for them. Some doctors recommend that you do a full-body self-exam in front of a mirror once a month.
Most skin cancers develop in sun-exposed areas like your face, scalp, chest, arms, and legs so its important to check these areas.
Its also a good idea to check places that are rarely exposed, such as your palms, genitals, your fingernails and toenails, and the soles of your feet.
Don’t Miss: Can Malignant Neoplasm Be Cured
Flat Red Patches And Rashes
One type of cancer that affects the skin, T-cell lymphoma, often begins with very itchy, flat, red patches and plaques that are easily mistaken for eczema or psoriasis.
One type of T-cell lymphoma, mycosis fungoids, transitions from these patches to dome-shaped nodules, and then to extensive reddened areas on multiple areas of the body. It may spread to lymph nodes and other regions of the body such as the lungs, liver, and bones. T-cell lymphomas most often begin on the buttocks, groin, hips, armpits, and chest.
Other cancers, such as breast cancer, may spread to the skin and initially be mistaken for a benign rash. Inflammatory breast cancer is a type of breast cancer that originates in the skin and appears, at first, to be an eczematous type of rash.
Certain Factors Affect Prognosis And Treatment Options
The prognosis for squamous cell carcinoma of the skin depends mostly on the following:
- Stage of the cancer.
- Whether the patient is immunosuppressed.
- Whether the patient uses tobacco.
- The patient’s general health.
Treatment options for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin depend on the following:
- The type of cancer.
- The stage of the cancer, for squamous cell carcinoma.
- The size of the tumor and what part of the body it affects.
- The patients general health.
Are All Moles Cancerous
Most moles are not cancerous. Some moles are present at birth, others develop up to about age 40. Most adults have between 10 and 40 moles.
In rare cases, a mole can turn into melanoma. If you have more than 50 moles, you have an increased chance of developing melanoma.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Your skin is the largest organ in your body. It needs as much attention as any other health concern. What may seem like an innocent cosmetic imperfection, may not be. Performing regular skin self-checks is important for everyone and is especially important if you are a person at increased risk of skin cancer. Skin cancer is also color-blind. If you are a person of color, skin cancer can happen to you. Check your skin every month for any changes in skin spots or any new skin growths. Consider taking skin selfies so you can easily see if spots change over time. If youre a person of color, be sure to check areas more prone to cancer development, such as the palms of your hands, soles of your feet, between your toes, your genital area and under your nails. Takes steps to protect your skin. Always wear sunscreen with SPF of at least 30 every day of the year. Wear UV-A/UV-B protective sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats and long-sleeve shirts and pants. See your dermatologist at least once a year for a professional skin check.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/19/2021.
A Translucent Waxy Bump
Sometimes skin cancer shows up in the form of a clear or skin-colored bump. A lot of people dont know what it is at first and think its a pimple or a bug bite and give it a chance to heal, says Susan Y. Chon, MD, associate professor in the department of dermatology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. This could be an early-stage basal cell or squamous cell skin cancer, she says, even if it never hurts, bleeds, or causes other symptoms. It doesnt have to be dramaticbut its not supposed to be there.
If you find a hard bump on your eyelid, its possible it could be a sign of a rare skin cancer that starts in oil glands called sebaceous gland carcinoma, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
And a shiny or firm nodule under the skinusually on your head, neck, or torsocould be a sign of a rare skin cancer called Merkel cell carcinoma, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Don’t Miss: Can You Get Cancer In The Back Of Your Neck
Warning Signs Of Skin Cancer To Pay Attention To
According to the World Health Organization , there are approximately 132,000 cases of melanoma and 2 to 3 million non-melanoma skin cancers diagnosed worldwide annually.
Signs of skin cancer can be subtle and difficult to identify, which can result in a delayed diagnosis. Being aware of the 7 most typical warning signs is the best way to prevent the most serious or fatal outcomes of a skin cancer by ensuring its earliest possible detection and diagnosis.
The 7 Signs
1. Changes in Appearance
Changes in the appearance of a mole or lesion is the simplest way to identify that something may not be right. While melanoma is the least common form of skin cancer, it is also the deadliest. Melanoma often appear as regular moles, but usually can be differentiated by some distinct characteristics. Use the ABCDE method to remember and detect these differences:
The shape of the mole or lesion in question does not have matching halves.
The edges of the mole or lesion are not clear. The color seems ragged or blurred, or may have spread into surrounding skin.
The color is uneven. Different colors such as black, brown, tan, white, grey, pink, red or blue may be seen.
If the suspicious mole or lesion changes in size there may be a problem. Increasing is more regular, but shrinking may also occur. Melanomas are typically a minimum of ¼ inch, or the size of a pencil eraser.
ELEVATED moles that seem to stick out further on your skin.
5. Impaired Vision
Melanoma Can Be Tricky
Identifying a potential skin cancer is not easy, and not all melanomas follow the rules. Melanomas come in many forms and may display none of the typical warning signs.
Its also important to note that about 20 to 30 percent of melanomas develop in existing moles, while 70 to 80 percent arise on seemingly normal skin.
Amelanotic melanomas are missing the dark pigment melanin that gives most moles their color. Amelanotic melanomas may be pinkish, reddish, white, the color of your skin or even clear and colorless, making them difficult to recognize.
Acral lentiginous melanoma, the most common form of melanoma found in people of color, often appears in hard-to-spot places, including under the fingernails or toenails, on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet.
The takeaway: Be watchful for any new mole or freckle that arises on your skin, a sore or spot that does not heal, any existing mole that starts changing or any spot, mole or lesion that looks unusual.
Acral lentiginous melanoma is the most common melanoma found in people of color.
Read Also: Metastatic Melanoma Cancer Life Expectancy
What Questions Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider
Questions to ask your dermatologist may include:
- What type of skin cancer do I have?
- What stage is my skin cancer?
- What tests will I need?
- Whats the best treatment for my skin cancer?
- What are the side effects of that treatment?
- What are the potential complications of this cancer and the treatment for it?
- What outcome can I expect?
- Do I have an increased risk of additional skin cancers?
- How often should I be seen for follow-up checkups?
Symptoms Of Skin Cancer: Squamous Cell Carcinoma
The second most common type of skin cancer. Derived from the squamous cell of the skin that form the epidermis, in the USA about 200,000 new cases are diagnosed every year and about 1,900 deaths are attributed to it. Also of slow growth rate, these tumors invade and metastasize if left untreated. They have similar distribution as BCC although they tend to be more frequent than BCC in arms and hands.
SCC tend to manifest as inflamed, reddened, scaly or crusty growth, sore or tender. Occasionally they can ulcerate, bleed or crust, not healing over time. They can take the shape of a wart, a reddened patch or an ulcer, with crust or bleeding. Occasionally they can present as a lump with central depression than bleeds.
SCC have an association with prolonged exposure to UV radiation. Additionally, they have an association with radiotherapy used to treat other cancers, infection with human papilloma virus, chemical toxins, immunosuppressive medications and low antioxidant diets.
- Superficial squamous cell
Also Check: Small Blue Cell Tumor Prognosis
Prognosis For Skin Cancer
It is not possible for a doctor to predict the exact course of a disease. However, your doctor may give you the likely outcome of the disease. If detected early, most skin cancers are successfully treated.
Most non-melanoma skin cancers do not pose a serious risk to your health but a cancer diagnosis can be a shock. If you want to talk to someone see your doctor. You can also call Cancer Council 13 11 20.
What To Look For
Any new spots that appear on the skin could potentially be skin cancer, considering that one in five people will develop at least one skin cancer in their lifetime. Definitively distinguishing the different types of skin cancer requires a biopsy and microscopic evaluation, but the general appearance of these tumors also differs to some degree.
- Basal cell carcinomas are often shiny and have been described as “pearlescent.” They may be flat, raised, or dome-shaped, and are often pink, pale, or flesh-colored. On careful inspection, tiny blood vessels may be visible when compared with the surrounding skin. Basal cell cancer characteristically is very often ulcerated and has been called a rodent ulcer because it looks like a mouse has gnawed it.
This photo contains content that some people may find graphic or disturbing.
- Squamous cell carcinomas are often raised and feel crusty to touch. They can appear scaly and may be ulceratedthat is, have a central depression that is lighter and flatter than the surrounding area. These cancers sometimes bleed, ooze, or form scabs.
This photo contains content that some people may find graphic or disturbing.
Don’t Miss: Large Cell Carcinoma Definition
Dark Lines On The Fingernails Or Toenails
The appearance of a dark area under a fingernail or toenail that appears without an obvious injury should always be investigated. Melanoma of the nail bed often presents when a pigmented streak of the nail involves the cuticle . These cancers are most common on the thumb and big toe but may occur on any nail.
While subungual melanomas are uncommon in whites, accounting for only around 1% of melanomas, they are the most common form of melanoma found in dark-skinned individuals.