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.
How Is Skin Cancer Diagnosed
Diagnosis starts with you asking your doctor to inspect your skin. A careful history and physical examination will be performed. A biopsy will be needed to confirm that the lump is malignant. This can be done by either taking a small part of a big lump or entirely removing a small one.The lymph nodes should also be examined, as they are a common site for metastasis, especially for melanoma and SCC. Other evaluations, such as a sentinel lymph node biopsy, CT scan, and/or PET scan may be needed to check for metastasis, especially with melanoma.
You Have A Red Scaly Patch That Won’t Go Away
Arthur said both basal and squamous cell carcinoma can show up as scaly red patches. She noted that squamous cell carcinomas can also be a little tender to touch.
Garner added that they can can feel like “irregular sandpaper” when you touch them.
Squamous cell carcinomas could also manifest as sores that won’t heal wart-like growths or elevated growths with indented centers that bleed, according to SCF.
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What Does Stage 1 Melanoma Look Like
Stage 1: The cancer is up to 2 millimeters thick. It has not yet spread to lymph nodes or other sites, and it may or may not be ulcerated. Stage 2: The cancer is at least 1 mm thick but may be thicker than 4 mm. It may or may not be ulcerated, and it has not yet spread to lymph nodes or other sites.
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:
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How Is Skin Cancer Treated
Treatment depends upon the stage of the cancer. Some types of treatment include the following:
- Mohs micrographic surgery uses a scalpel to remove the tumor and thin layer of surrounding tissue.
- Excisional surgery involves a surgeon removing the tumor and some predetermined amount of surrounding healthy skin to be sure all cancer has been removed.
- Electrosurgery uses heat to burn the tumor and some surrounding area.
- Cryosurgery involves freezing the tumor and may require multiple treatments.
Radiation therapy or topical therapy can be used for cancers in places that are hard to reach with surgery or for patients who are not able to have surgery.
Can Blood Tests Or Scans Detect Skin Cancer
Currently, blood tests and imaging scans like MRI or PET are not used as screening tests for skin cancer. However, some national studies are underway to determine if concentrations of skin cancer DNA can be detected by blood tests. Occasionally, imaging detects signs of advanced disease. Sometimes, skin cancer that has spread to internal organs is detected incidentally when a patient is undergoing an imaging study such as MRI or PET scan for unrelated conditions.
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If You Find A Spot You’re Concerned About See A Doctor
“If someone has a concern about a spot, I encourage them to go see a dermatologist,” Arthur said. “Because that’s what we’re here for.”
“Does it need to be necessarily looked at today? No. But you should make your appointment and try to get in as soon as you can,” she said.
And don’t assume you’re exempt from skin cancer just because you’re not an 80-year-old, fair-skinned, tanning bed addict covered in moles. Yes, the risk is higher in people with light skin, but skin cancer can happen to anyone, according to the National Cancer Institute even those with dark skin and those who are young.
“Melanoma is the second most common form of cancer in women ages 15 to 29,” Arthur said. “Skin cancer is not just a cancer of the elderly. “
When Melanoma Can’t Be Cured
If your cancer has spread and it is not possible to cure it by surgery, your doctor may still recommend treatment. In this case, treatment may help to relieve symptoms, might make you feel better and may allow you to live longer.Whether or not you choose to have anti-cancer treatment, symptoms can still be controlled. For example, if you have pain, there are effective treatments for this. General practitioners, specialists and palliative care teams in hospitals all play important roles in helping people with cancer.
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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.
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Causes And Risk Factors
Researchers do not know why certain cells become cancerous. However, they have identified some risk factors for skin cancer.
The most important risk factor for melanoma is exposure to UV rays. These damage the skin cellsâ DNA, which controls how the cells grow, divide, and stay alive.
Most UV rays come from sunlight, but they also come from tanning beds.
Some other risk factors for skin cancer include:
- A lot of moles: A person with more than 100 moles is more likely to develop melanoma.
- Fair skin, light hair, and freckles: The risk of developing melanoma is higher among people with fair skin. Those who burn easily have an increased risk.
- Family history:Around 10% of people with the condition have a family history of it.
- Personal history: Melanoma is likelier to form in a person who has already had it. People who have had basal cell or squamous cell cancers also have an increased risk of developing melanoma.
The best way to reduce the risk of skin cancer is to limit oneâs exposure to UV rays. A person can do this by using sunscreen, seeking shade, and covering up when outdoors.
People should also avoid tanning beds and sunlamps to reduce their risk of skin cancer.
It can be easy to mistake benign growths for skin cancer.
The following skin conditions have similar symptoms to skin cancer:
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Who Gets Skin Cancer And Why
Sun exposure is the biggest cause of skin cancer. But it doesn’t 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
Who Is Most At Risk For Skin Cancer
Although anyone can develop skin cancer, those that are most at risk for skin cancer are people who:
- Have had an organ transplant
- Tan or use tanning beds
- Get easily sunburned
- Have fair or freckled skin
- Have a family history of skin cancer
- Have blue eyes
- Take medications that suppress/weaken the immune system
People who work or spend more time outdoors have an increased risk for skin cancer, especially those in sunny climates. People with darker skin are still able to get skin cancer, but the risk is substantially lower. Organ transplant patients are up to 100 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma skin cancer when compared to the general population, largely because they take medications that suppress their immune systems.
Risk factors unique to melanoma include a history of severe sunburns and an abundance of large and irregular moles.
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Treatment If The Condition Gets Worse
Surgery is usually very effective for both basal and squamous cell carcinoma. But sometimes the cancer can come back . Or in rare cases, it may spread . Metastasis is more likely with squamous cell carcinoma than with basal cell.
If basal cell carcinoma comes back, treatment is usually Mohs surgery. But for squamous cell carcinoma that comes back, treatment may include surgery or radiation therapy.
If the cancer does spread, chemotherapy may be used. If basal cell carcinoma spreads after treatment with surgery and radiation, it may be treated with medicines like vismodegib . Your doctor may suggest that you enroll in a clinical trial if one is available.
What To Think About
You can find more information about skin cancer online at the:
- Canadian Cancer Society website at www.cancer.ca.
- U.S. National Cancer Institute website at www.cancer.gov.
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Don’t Panic But Don’t Ignore The Threat Of Skin Cancer Either
When skin cancers are detected early they’re usually easily treatable, Arthur said. Just remember that skin cancer can be serious when it’s advanced.
Arthur pointed to one telling example: Singer Bob Marley, who died at age 36 after melanoma spread throughout his body. The cancer began as a dark spot underneath his toenail, and Marley thought it was just a soccer injury. If it had been treated earlier, the SCF notes, that melanoma could have been treated or perhaps cured.
“Early detection is key,” Arthur said. “I would much rather have someone come in, even if it’s a benign spot, rather than to have them wait for six months and have something potentially grow.”
Learn more about skin cancer at the Skin Cancer Foundation website.
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What Are Skin Cancer Signs And Symptoms
A sign is something that can be noticed. In skin cancer, a sign is any noticeable changes to skin. Skin cancer may present as an abnormal lesion or bump or as a mole that has changed appearance.
A symptom, or something you feel, may include tenderness, itchiness, soreness or bleeding around the abnormal lesion, bump or mole.
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What Are The Signs Of Skin Cancer
Skin cancer can be a portion or spot of skin that does not heal. If you scrape your knee, it will usually heal within a month. Skin cancer will not heal.
The most common warning sign of skin cancer is a change on the skin, typically a new growth, or a change in an existing growth or mole.
- Basal cell carcinoma might appear as a small, smooth, pearly or waxy bump on the face, ears, and neck or as a flat, pink/red- or brown-colored lesion on the trunk or arms and legs.
- Squamous cell carcinoma can appear as a firm, red nodule, or as a rough, scaly flat lesion that might itch, bleed, and become crusty. Both basal cell and squamous cell cancers mainly occur on areas of the skin frequently exposed to the sun, but can occur anywhere.
- Melanoma usually appears as a brown-pigmented patch or bump. It might resemble a normal mole, but usually has a more irregular appearance. Thinking of the ABCDE rule tells you what signs to watch for:
- Asymmetry: irregular shape
- Border: blurry or irregularly shaped edges
- Color: mole with more than one color
- Diameter: larger than a pencil eraser
- Evolution: enlarging, changing in shape, color, or size.
Be alert to pre-cancerous skin lesions that can develop into non-melanoma skin cancer. They appear as small scaly, tan or red spots, and are most often found on surfaces of the skin chronically exposed to the sun, such as the face and backs of the hands.
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.
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How To Detect Skin Cancer
When it comes to skin cancer, we have some good news and some bad news.
First, the bad news: skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States. Each year, nearly 5 million people are treated for skin cancer, and in the last three decades, more Americans have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined.
But heres the good news: You can often see the early warning signs of skin cancer…without an x-ray or blood test or special diagnostic procedure. If you know what to look for and take action when you see it, most skin cancers can be detected and treated at early stages, when they are most curable.
Even for melanoma, a more dangerous skin cancer type that is more likely to spread to other body areas, the five-year survival rate is 99% for people whose melanoma is detected and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes.
Can Skin Cancer Be Painful
To diagnose skin cancer on your scalp, your health care provider may:
- Examine the skin on your scalp to find out whether the changes in your skin are likely due to cancer
- Perform a skin biopsy where they remove a small sample of the suspicious skin and send it to a lab for testing
If you have scalp cancer, your health care provider may recommend additional testing to determine the stage of skin cancer, especially for melanoma and squamous cell cancer. Additional tests may include imaging studies to examine nearby lymph nodes for any signs of carcinoma or a biopsy of a lymph node .
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How To Spot Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is by far the most common type of cancer. If you know what to look for, you can spot warning signs of skin cancer early. Finding it early, when its small and has not spread, makes skin cancer much easier to treat.
Some doctors and other health care professionals include skin exams as part of routine health check-ups. Many doctors also recommend that you check your own skin about once a month. Look at your skin in a well-lit room in front of a full-length mirror. Use a hand-held mirror to look at areas that are hard to see.
Use the ABCDE rule to look for some of the common signs of melanoma, one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer:
AsymmetryOne part of a mole or birthmark doesnt match the other.
BorderThe edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
ColorThe color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
DiameterThe spot is larger than ¼ inch across about the size of a pencil eraser although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this.
EvolvingThe mole is changing in size, shape, or color.
Basal and squamous cell skin cancers are more common than melanomas, but they are usually very treatable.
Both basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas, or cancers, usually grow on parts of the body that get the most sun, such as the face, head, and neck. But they can show up anywhere.
Basal cell carcinomas: what to look for:
Squamous cell carcinomas: what to look for: