How Can I Tell If I Have Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is actually one of the easiest cancers to find. Thats because skin cancer usually begins where you can see it.
You can get skin cancer anywhere on your skin from your scalp to the bottoms of your feet. Even if the area gets little sun, its possible for skin cancer to develop there.
You can also get skin cancer in places that may surprise you. Skin cancer can begin under a toenail or fingernail, on your genitals, inside your mouth, or on a lip.
The Bottom Line On Cancer And Hair Loss
We know that losing your hair is a hard thing to cope with, particularly during an even tougher experience like fighting cancer.
If we can leave you with two takeaways, its this:
First, for the largest majority of people, hair loss from cancer treatment is not permanent.
And since most of the hair loss experienced during cancer is from the treatment itself, you have a very, very small chance of not regrowing your hair.
The second thing we need to remind you: hair is not who you are. Losing your hair has the chance to sap your confidence and really undermine those recovery efforts. Dont let it.
Own it. Own the look, own the chance to try new hats dont let it own you.
We know that if youre currently in cancer treatment, you already have one or more healthcare professionals walking you through everything.
That said, if youre feeling anxious or depressed because of any issues related to cancer treatment, talk to someone.
Just because your body is getting all the attention doesnt mean your mind doesnt deserve some, too.
If youre feeling down, talk to an online therapy provider. Not ready to talk to someone? We have more resources for you.
Check out our Mental Health Guide for links to more stories and options for treatment.
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Protect Your Skin From The Sun
Anyone who has had melanoma has a higher risk of getting another skin cancer, including melanoma.
Research shows that people who have had melanoma can decrease their risk of getting another skin cancer by protecting their skin from the sun. Despite this finding, studies have found that many people who have been treated for melanoma dont protect their skin from the sun.
You can reduce your risk of getting melanoma or another skin cancer by:
Wearing sun-protective clothes, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, and a wide-brimmed hat, along with UV-protective sunglasses.
Staying in the shade while outdoors.
Planning outdoor activities so that you avoid being outdoors between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., when the suns rays are the strongest.
Applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher to all skin that clothing wont cover, even when its cloudy or cold outside.
Using sunscreen every day, even when youll be outside for a short time, such as when you go to work or run errands.
Avoiding tanning, both indoors and outside.
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Skin Disorders That Cause Pigment Loss
Pigment loss can be worrisome. Its sometimes limited to small patches of skin but may be more generalized. Understanding the nature of the pigment loss is key to determining the most appropriate next steps. Common causes of pigment loss include skin conditions like vitiligo, inflammation, wound healing with scarring, infection and a variety of other conditions that a person may be born with or acquire 10.
What Treatment Is Available
Many people find that their hair regrows without treatment. Hair regrowth can be slow, though. You may not see the hair regrowth you expect.
Dermatologists can treat patients affected by alopecia areata. Patients often get more than one treatment at a time. Combining treatments often boosts success.
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Tests That May Be Done
The doctor will ask you questions about when the spot on your skin first showed up and if it has changed in size or the way it looks or feels. The rest of your skin will be checked. During the exam your doctor will check the size, shape, color and texture of any skin changes. If signs are pointing to skin cancer, more tests will be done.
In a biopsy, the doctor takes out a small piece of tissue to check it for cancer cells. A biopsy is the only way to tell for sure if you have skin cancer and what kind it is.
There are many types of skin biopsies. Ask your doctor what kind you will need. Each type has pros and cons. The choice of which type to use depends on your own case.
In rare cases basal and squamous cell skin cancer can spread to the nearby lymph nodes Ask your doctor if your lymph nodes will be tested.
Basal and squamous cell cancers don’t often spread to other parts of the body. But if your doctor thinks your skin cancer might spread, you might need imaging tests, such as MRI or CT scans.
After Skin Cancer Treatment
Most skin cancer is cured surgically in the dermatologist’s office. Of skin cancers that do recur, most do so within three years. Therefore, follow up with your dermatologist as recommended. Make an appointment immediately if you suspect a problem.
If you have advanced malignant melanoma, your oncologist may want to see you every few months. These visits may include total body skin exams, regional lymph node checks, and periodic chest X-rays and body scans. Over time, the intervals between follow-up appointments will increase. Eventually these checks may be done only once a year.
How Do Dermatologists Diagnose Hair Loss
Because so many things can cause hair loss, a dermatologist acts like a detective. A dermatologist may begin by asking questions. The dermatologist will want to know whether the hair loss happened suddenly or gradually. Knowing this helps to eliminate causes.
A dermatologist also will ask what medicines you take, what allergies you have, and whether you have been dieting. It is important to give the dermatologist accurate information. Like a murder mystery, the slightest clue can solve the case. Women may be asked about their periods, pregnancies, and menopause.
The dermatologist also will carefully look at your scalp and hair. During an exam, the dermatologist may pull on your hair. Sometimes a dermatologist needs to pull out a hair to get the necessary evidence. And sometimes a dermatologist needs to look at the hair on the rest of your body to see whether there is too little or too much hair in other areas.
Sometimes the evidence lies in your scalp. The dermatologist may remove a small piece of the scalp. This is called a scalp biopsy. A dermatologist can quickly and safely perform a scalp biopsy during an office visit. A scalp biopsy can be essential to solving the case. Sometimes, a blood test is necessary.
Because so many things can cause hair loss, it can take time to find the cause. You may need to make a few appointments.
Alopecia Due To Cutaneous Lymphoma Can Be Reversed
Treatment of the cutaneous lymphoma often leads to re-growth of hair. However, even in patients with seemingly complete resolution of skin disease, hair loss can still persist.1
Alopecia is not only caused by cutaneous lymphoma itself but may also be seen secondarily as a side effect of treatments. Many commonly used treatments including interferons , oral bexarotene , vorinostat , methotrexate and others have been associated with alopecia the percent of patients who have experienced this side effect is listed in parentheses. Though bexarotene has been associated with causing hair loss, one study found that the gel and oral capsules may also lead to partial re-growth of hair.3 Most of the time treatment-related hair loss is reversible, but the hair may never reach the same level of thickness as before.
Local and total body radiation can also cause hair loss in the areas being treated. In contrast to chemotherapy induced alopecia, hair loss due to radiation is more frequently permanent. Patients who undergo lower doses of radiation therapy have a higher possibility of new hair growth. Re-growth, when it occurs, usually begins 3-6 months after the resolution of chemotherapy or radiation.
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What Are The Causes Of & Risk Factors For Scalp Melanoma
Sun exposure is the leading cause of all forms of melanoma. Because the scalp often receives a significant amount of sun exposure, that means there is a high risk for melanoma and other forms of skin cancer in this area. In addition to sun exposure, regularly visiting tanning beds, radiation treatment, and chemical exposure can all contribute to the development of skin cancers.
In addition to the underlying causes of skin cancer, numerous factors can increase the risk of developing scalp melanoma, including:
- Taking immunosuppressive medications
See A Suspicious Spot See A Dermatologist
If you find a spot on your skin that could be skin cancer, its time to see a dermatologist. Found early, skin cancer is highly treatable. Often a dermatologist can treat an early skin cancer by removing the cancer and a bit of normal-looking skin.
Given time to grow, treatment for skin cancer becomes more difficult.
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Cancer Signals In Both Men And Women
Appetite loss. Many conditions, from depression to the flu, can make you feel less hungry. Cancer can have this effect by changing your metabolism, the way your body turns food into energy.
Stomach, pancreatic, colon, and ovarian cancers also can put pressure on your stomach and make you feel too full to eat.
Blood in the stool. Cancers can bleed, but so can a bunch of other things, like ulcers, hemorrhoids, infections, or a sore. When you see red in your poop, the blood is often from somewhere in your GI tract, meaning your esophagus, stomach, or intestines.
One way to tell where the blood is coming from is by how light or dark it looks. Bright red could mean the bleeding is in your rectum or the end of your intestines. A darker color means it may be from higher up, like a stomach ulcer.
No matter what the cause, blood in your stool needs to be checked out. You may need a colonoscopy or other tests to find the problem.
Blood in the urine. When it shows up in your pee, blood could be a warning sign of a problem in your urinary tract. Kidney or bladder cancer can cause this symptom, but it could also be due to an infection, kidney stones, or kidney disease.
Cough that doesnt go away. A cold or the flu can make you hack away, but its also a potential symptom of lung cancer, along with red flags like chest pain, weight loss, hoarseness, fatigue, and shortness of breath. See your doctor if you cant seem to shake it, especially if youre a smoker.
What Are The Causes Of Hair Loss
Hair loss is more common in men than women. It can affect just the scalp or can occur across the entire body. There are a variety of causes, from your genes to medications you may be taking.
At Advanced Laser and Skin Care Center, we offer robotic hair restoration for our patients experiencing hair loss.
Here are the possible causes behind your hair loss.
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Talking With Your Health Care Team About Hair Loss
Prepare for your visit by making a list of questions to ask. Consider adding these questions to your list:
- Is treatment likely to cause my hair to fall out?
- How should I protect and care for my head? Are there products that you recommend? Ones I should avoid?
- Where can I get a wig or hairpiece?
- What support groups could I meet with that might help?
- When will my hair grow back?
Skin Cancer Of The Head And Neck Treatment
Many early-stage small basal cell cancers or squamous cell cancers can be removed by Mohs surgery, a technique that spares normal tissue through repeated intraoperative margin testing, removing only the cancer and leaving adjacent normal tissue. Tumors with nerve involvement, lymph node involvement or of a large size are not suitable for Mohs surgery. They require a multimodality approach to treatment, with formal surgical resection and adjuvant radiation or chemotherapy.
Melanoma is more likely to spread, and aggressive surgical resection with wide margins is required, in addition to radiation and/or chemotherapy.
Johns Hopkins Head and Neck Cancer Surgery
Johns Hopkins Head and Neck Cancer Surgery provides comprehensive surgical care and treatment for head and neck cancers. Our surgeons are at the leading edge of head and neck cancer treatment. You will benefit from the skilled care of head and neck surgeons, guiding clinical advancements in the field of head and neck cancer care.
Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Cancer is one of the most difficult and taxing diseases to treat. It can wreak havoc on the body and weaken the immune system and just about every other system for that matter.
It can make you tired, frail, pale and run down. But can it make you bald?
Between the scarves and the Locks of Love campaigns, we all know that hair loss during cancer is a frequent occurrence.
You Can Find Skin Cancer On Your Body
The best way to find skin cancer is to examine yourself. When checking, you want to look at the spots on your skin. And you want to check everywhere from your scalp to the spaces between your toes and the bottoms of your feet.
If possible, having a partner can be helpful. Your partner can examine hard-to-see areas like your scalp and back.
Getting in the habit of checking your skin will help you notice changes. Checking monthly can be beneficial. If you have had skin cancer, your dermatologist can tell you how often you should check your skin.
People of all ages get skin cancer
Checking your skin can help you find skin cancer early when its highly treatable.
Ways To Manage Hair Loss
Talk with your health care team about ways to manage before and after hair loss:
- Treat your hair gently. You may want to use a hairbrush with soft bristles or a wide-tooth comb. Do not use hair dryers, irons, or products such as gels or clips that may hurt your scalp. Wash your hair with a mild shampoo. Wash it less often and be very gentle. Pat it dry with a soft towel.
- You have choices. Some people choose to cut their hair short to make it easier to deal with when it starts to fall out. Others choose to shave their head. If you choose to shave your head, use an electric shaver so you wont cut yourself. If you plan to buy a wig, get one while you still have hair so you can match it to the color of your hair. If you find wigs to be itchy and hot, try wearing a comfortable scarf or turban.
- Protect and care for your scalp. Use sunscreen or wear a hat when you are outside. Choose a comfortable scarf or hat that you enjoy and that keeps your head warm. If your scalp itches or feels tender, using lotions and conditioners can help it feel better.
- Talk about your feelings. Many people feel angry, depressed, or embarrassed about hair loss. It can help to share these feelings with someone who understands. Some people find it helpful to talk with other people who have lost their hair during cancer treatment. Talking openly and honestly with your children and close family members can also help you all. Tell them that you expect to lose your hair during treatment.
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Who Gets Skin Cancer And Why
Sun exposure is the biggest cause of skin cancer. But it doesnt explain skin cancers that develop on skin not ordinarily exposed to sunlight. Exposure to environmental hazards, radiation treatment, and even heredity may play a role. Although anyone can get skin cancer, the risk is greatest for people who have:
- Fair skin or light-colored eyes
- An abundance of large and irregularly-shaped moles
- A family history of skin cancer
- A history of excessive sun exposure or blistering sunburns
- Lived at high altitudes or with year-round sunshine
- Received radiation treatments
Can Skin Cancer Make Your Hair Fall Out
Can skin cancer make your hair fall out? Hair loss is a common side effect of cancer treatment. Hair loss can happen as a side effect of chemotherapy, targeted therapy, radiation therapy, or a stem cell transplant. These cancer treatments can harm the cells that help hair grow.
Can skin cancer make you lose your hair? However, other types of scarring that may cause hair loss can be caused by diseases, such as lupus, bacterial or fungal skin infections, lichen planus, sarcoidosis, tuberculosis or skin cancer.
Can Melanoma make your hair fall out? Malignant and benign melanocytic processes can mimic, be hidden by or induce alopecia in the scalp . Melanoma can be related to alopecia.
What skin conditions cause hairloss? Hair loss can be caused by a fungus, psoriasis, or dandruff . The most common fungal infection affecting the hair is ringworm the same thing as athletes foot. It requires an antifungal medication taken by mouth.
How Is Cancer On The Scalp Treated
Potential treatments for skin cancer on your scalp include:
- Surgery. Your doctor will remove the cancerous growth and some of the skin around it, to make sure that they removed all the cancer cells. This is usually the first treatment for melanoma. After surgery, you may also need reconstructive surgery, such as a skin graft.
- Mohs surgery. This type of surgery is used for large, recurring, or hard-to-treat skin cancer. Its used to save as much skin as possible. In Mohs surgery, your doctor will remove the growth layer by layer, examining each one under a microscope, until there are no cancer cells left.
- Radiation. This may be used as a first treatment or after surgery, to kill remaining cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy. If your skin cancer is only on the top layer of skin, you might be able to use a chemotherapy lotion to treat it. If your cancer has spread, you might need traditional chemotherapy.
- Freezing. Used for cancer that doesnt go deep into your skin.
- . Youll take medications that will make cancer cells sensitive to light. Then your doctor will use lasers to kill the cells.
The outlook for skin cancer on your scalp depends on the specific type of skin cancer: