Skin Cancer Diagnosis Always Requires A Skin Biopsy
When you see a dermatologist because youve found a spot that might be skin cancer, your dermatologist will examine the spot.
If the spot looks like it could be a skin cancer, your dermatologist will remove it all or part of it. This can easily be done during your appointment. The procedure that your dermatologist uses to remove the spot is called a skin biopsy.
Having a skin biopsy is essential. Its the only way to know whether you have skin cancer. Theres no other way to know for sure.
What your dermatologist removes will be looked at under a microscope. The doctor who examines the removed skin will look for cancer cells. If cancer cells are found, your biopsy report will tell you what type of skin cancer cells were found. When cancer cells arent found, your biopsy report will explain what was seen under the microscope.
When Do Signs And Symptoms First Appear
Typically, cancer signs and symptoms first appear when the cancerous tumor or mass has grown large enough that it begins to push against nearby organs and tissue, blood vessels, and nerves.
This can lead to pain, a change in how the nearby organs function, or both. A brain tumor pressing against the optic nerve will affect vision, for example.
Some cancers are fast moving, such as liver and pancreatic cancers. Prostate cancer, however, is usually slow moving. This is why many older men with prostate cancer forego treatment theyre more likely to die with prostate cancer than because of it.
Screenings for certain cancers should be part of your normal preventive healthcare. These include cancers of the:
Your age, sex, family history, and your own medical history will dictate when routine screenings should begin and how often they should be done.
If youre concerned about symptoms associated with various cancers, then you shouldnt hesitate to see your doctor. You can connect to a physician in your area using the Healthline FindCare tool.
Who Is At Risk
People with fair skin and lighter eyes and hair tend to be particularlyvulnerable to skin cancer. Other risk factors include a family history ofmelanoma, more time spent unprotected in the sun, early childhoodsunburns, immunosuppressive disorders, a weakened immune system, and havingmany freckles or moles.
Both men and women are at risk, but there is one troublingtrend: an alarming surge in melanoma rates in young women.This is largely due to tanning from the sun and in tanning salons. Tanning either at beaches or salons is a major risk factor forskin cancers.
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Symptoms Of Skin Cancer
Skin cancers arent all identical, and they may not cause many symptoms. Still, unusual changes to your skin can be a warning sign for the different types of cancer. Being alert for changes to your skin may help you get a diagnosis earlier.
Watch out for symptoms, including:
- skin lesions: A new mole, unusual growth, bump, sore, scaly patch, or dark spot develops and doesnt go away.
- asymmetry: The two halves of the lesion or mole arent even or identical.
- border: The lesions have ragged, uneven edges.
- color: The spot has an unusual color, such as white, pink, black, blue, or red.
- diameter: The spot is larger than one-quarter inch, or about the size of a pencil eraser.
- evolving: You can detect that the mole is changing size, color, or shape.
Risk Of Further Melanomas
Most people treated for early melanoma do not have further trouble with the disease. However, when there is a chance that the melanoma may have spread to other parts of your body, you will need regular check-ups. Your doctor will decide how often you will need check-ups everyone is different. They will become less frequent if you have no further problems. After treatment for melanoma it is important to limit exposure to the sun’s UV radiation. As biological family members usually share similar traits, your family members may also have an increased risk of developing melanoma and other skin cancers. They can reduce their risk by spending less time in the sun and using a combination of sun protection measures during sun protection times. It is important to monitor your skin regularly and if you notice any changes in your skin, or enlarged lymph glands near to where you had the cancer, see your specialist as soon as possible.
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What Can You Do To Catch Skin Cancer Early
Keep an eye out for changes in your skin: new or changing spots , or a spot that itches, bleeds, or wont heal. Make a habit of regularly checking your entire skin surface from head to toe, perhaps once a month. You dont have to memorize each spot, just get familiar with the types of spots you have so that youll spot an “ugly duckling” more easily. Once you get used to it, a thorough exam will take only a few minutes. To help guide your self-exam, check out the UM Rogel Cancer Centers Skin Cancer Screening Card: Be Smart About Your Skin, Know Your ABCDs and the UMSkinCheck App. Be sure to have anything you think is suspicious checked out by your dermatologist, and consider having an annual skin check completed by your dermatologist or primary physician.
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.
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Five Tips For Skin Cancer Prevention
Fortunately, all types of skin cancer are preventable. Here are five tips for skin cancer prevention:
What Measures Can We Take To Protect Ourselves Especially During The Sunnier Summer Season
Since UV exposure increases your risk for all skin cancers, it’s helpful to put something between the sun and your skin. Choose what works best for you. For some, that’s a roof! But even those of us who worry about skin cancer professionally still enjoy being outdoors. Take advantage of shade, an umbrella at the pool or beach, a hat , sunglasses, keeping your shirt on while mowing, and so on. If you know your skin will be exposed, I recommend broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen. Don’t be stingy with applying the sunscreen you have to use a generous layer to achieve the SPF on the label. Reapply the sunscreen every couple of hours if youll be outside for a long time, and more often if you’re swimming or sweating. Nowadays it even comes in convenient forms like sprays if you don’t like applying it with your hands.
Finally, please avoid tanning booths. Although they may help you avoid a painful sunburn, they do not protect you from the damage the ultraviolet rays are doing to your skin, and they increase the risk of melanoma, not to mention the risk that you will start looking much older than your age. It’s better to use a spray tan or bronzing lotion to achieve the color you wish, and then use sunscreen to protect yourself from the ultraviolet rays.
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What Changes In The Skin Occur Due To Exposure To The Sun
Exposure to sun causes most of the wrinkles and age spots on our faces. People think a glowing complexion means good health, but skin color obtained from being in the sun can actually speed up the effects of aging and increase the risk of developing skin cancer.
Sun exposure causes most of the skin changes that we think of as a normal part of aging. Over time, the sun’s ultraviolet light damages the fibers in the skin called elastin. When these fibers break down, the skin begins to sag, stretch, and lose its ability to go back into place after stretching. The skin also bruises and tears more easily in addition to taking longer to heal. So while sun damage to the skin may not be apparent when you’re young, it will definitely show later in life. The sun can also cause issues for your eyes, eyelids, and the skin around the eyes.
Changes in the skin related to sun exposure:
- Precancerous and cancerous skin lesions caused by loss of the skin’s immune function.
- Benign tumors.
- Fine and coarse wrinkles.
- Freckles discolored areas of the skin, called mottled pigmentation and sallowness, yellow discoloration of the skin.
- Telangiectasias, the dilation of small blood vessels under the skin.
- Elastosis, the destruction of the elastic tissue causing lines and wrinkles.
Is There Anything Else I Need To Know About A Skin Cancer Screening
Exposure to the ultraviolet rays that come from the sun plays a major role in causing skin cancer. You are exposed to these rays anytime you are out in the sun, not just when you are at the beach or pool. But you can limit your sun exposure and help reduce your risk of skin cancer if you take a few simple precautions when out in the sun. These include:
- Using a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30
- Seeking shade when possible
- Wearing a hat and sunglasses
Sunbathing also increases your risk of skin cancer. You should avoid outdoor sunbathing and never use an indoor tanning salon. There is no safe amount of exposure to artificial tanning beds, sunlamps, or other artificial tanning devices.
If you have questions about reducing your risk of skin cancer, talk to your health care provider.
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What About People Who Have Spent Years In The Sun Getting Burned And Tanned Does It Make Sense To Be Careful In The Sun Now
It’s true that previous sunburns increase the risk that you’ll get skin cancer someday. You can’t completely erase the damage they may have done to your skin. However, if you are more careful now, you’re doing your skin a big favor. You will be less likely to encounter the “final straw” that turns damaged skin cells into cancerous ones. Don’t beat yourself up for what’s in the past. Just focus on keeping your skin healthy now, and check your skin regularly so that if cancer turns up, you can catch it early when it’s far easier to treat and cure.
Get more information about skin cancer prevention and detection:
Basal Cell Carcinoma Staging
Staging is the process of determining whether cancer has spread and, if so, how far. The stage of the disease may affect the treatment plan.
The stage is based on the size of the tumor, how deeply into the skin it has grown, and whether cancer has spread beyond the tumor to the lymph nodes. Your doctor will look at the results of the biopsy to determine the stage. In rare cases, your doctor may recommend imaging such as CT or PET-CT scan to see if the cancer has spread beyond the skin
Stages are numbered in Roman numerals between 0 and IV.
Most non-melanoma skin cancers are Stage 0 or Stage 1. Stage 3 and 4 are relatively rare. Based on the type of cancer, the stage of cancer, your overall health, and other factors, your doctor works with you to develop a treatment plan.
High risk features for primary tumor staging
- Depth/invasion: > 2 mm thickness , Clark level IV, Perineural invasion
- Anatomic: Primary site ear
- Location: Primary site hair-bearing lip
- Differentiation: Poorly differentiated or undifferentiated
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How Does The Doctor Know I Have Skin Cancer
Basal and squamous skin cancer may look like:
- Flat, firm, pale or yellow areas that look a lot like a scar
- Raised reddish patches that might itch
- Rough or scaly red patches, which might crust or bleed
- Small, pink or red, shiny, pearly bumps, which might have blue, brown, or black areas
- Pink growths or lumps with raised edges and a lower center
- Open sores that dont heal, or that heal and then come back
- Wart-like growths
How Serious Is My Cancer
If you have skin cancer, the doctor will want to find out how far it has spread. This is called staging.
Basal and squamous cell skin cancers don’t spread as often as some other types of cancer, so the exact stage might not be too important. Still, your doctor might want to find out the stage of your cancer to help decide what type of treatment is best for you.
The stage describes the growth or spread of the cancer through the skin. It also tells if the cancer has spread to other parts of your body that are close by or farther away.
Your cancer can be stage 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4. The lower the number, the less the cancer has spread. A higher number, like stage 4, means a more serious cancer that has spread beyond the skin. Be sure to ask the doctor about the cancer stage and what it means for you.
Other things can also help you and your doctor decide how to treat your cancer, such as:
- Where the cancer is on your body
- How fast the cancer has been growing
- If the cancer is causing symptoms, such as being painful or itchy
- If the cancer is in a place that was already treated with radiation
- If you have a weakened immune system
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How Can People With Dark Skin Get Skin Cancer
Although dark skin does not burn in the sun as easily as fair skin, everyone is at risk for skin cancer. Even people who don’t burn are at risk for skin cancer. It doesn’t matter whether you consider your skin light, dark, or somewhere in between. You are at risk for skin cancer. Being in the sun can damage your skin. Sunlight causes damage through ultraviolet, or UV rays, . Two parts of UV, UVA and UVB, can both cause damage to skin. Also, the sun isn’t the only cause of skin cancer. There are other causes. That’s why skin cancer may be found in places on the body never exposed to the sun.
Keep A Close Eye On Skin Spots
Many people with basal cell carcinoma get another one within 5 years. Take a good look at your skin on a regular basis so you can catch skin cancer before it gets out of hand.
âI tell people to âcheck your birthday suit on your birthday,ââ Torbeck says. He also suggests taking photos of any spots youâre concerned about. This way you can show your doctor how theyâve changed over time.
When you check, remember to look for your ABCDEs:
Asymmetry. One half doesnât match the other half.
Border irregularity. Blurry or undefined spots or moles.
Color change. More than one color on a spot or mole
Diameter. Bigger than 6 mm
Evolution. The spot looks different than others on your body or changes over time.
Torbeck says evolution is the most important one to watch for. âLook for changes in size, shape, color, itching, bleeding, a wound that doesnât heal, or a pimple bump that doesnât go away.â
People At High Risk For Skin Cancer Should Have Regular Skin Exams
Skin cancer is an ongoing health problem in the United States. More than two people die of skin cancer in the US every hour. One in five Americans will be diagnosed with some form of skin cancer in their lifetime.
While skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, it is also one of the easiest to treat when detected early.
This means being familiar with your skin and knowing the warning signs of skin cancer, especially if you are at higher risk of skin cancer, says Benjamin Kelley, MD, a dermatologist at Scripps MD Anderson Cancer Center and Scripps Clinic.
When to schedule a skin cancer screening?
Being at increased risk doesnt mean youll get skin cancer, but you may need to start regular screenings in case you do get skin cancer and it can be caught early, Dr. Kelley says.
The most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Melanoma makes up only 2 percent of cancers, but it is the deadliest.
Who is at risk for skin cancer?
Skin cancer can affect anyone, but some people are at higher risk.
Doctors recommend getting an annual skin cancer screening if you are in a high-risk category. Risk factors include:
The main cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet rays from the sun. Doctors recommend taking sun safety seriously and regular use of sunscreen as well as avoiding tanning beds.