What Skin Cancer Looks Like
Skin cancer appears on the body in many different ways. It can look like a:
Changing mole or mole that looks different from your others
Non-healing sore or sore that heals and returns
Brown or black streak under a nail
It can also show up in other ways.
To find skin cancer on your body, you dont have to remember a long list. Dermatologists sum it up this way. Its time to see a dermatologist if you notice a spot on your skin that:
Differs from the others
To make it easy for you to check your skin, the AAD created the Body Mole Map. Youll find everything you need to know on a single page. Illustrations show you how to examine your skin and what to look for. Theres even place to record what your spots look like. Youll find this page, which you can print, at Body Mole Map.
How Do I Know What Health Information To Trust
Health information fills the internet. Much of it is good. Some of it is wrong or misleading. Here are some tips for evaluating the quality of the information you read:6
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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How Do You Treat Skin Cancer On The Nose
The nose is a relatively common spot for skin cancer to develop. Skin cancer often starts on the face because it’s usually the body part that’s exposed to the sun. The two most common types of skin cancer that develop on the nose are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma . While both types of skin cancer should be addressed right away, BCC is usually slow-growing and SCC grows more quickly. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer ,with about 80% of cases occurring on the face and 25 to 30% on the nose.
The third type of skin cancer, melanoma, is rare and much more serious. It almost always requires excisional surgery to remove it. Fortunately, most forms of skin cancer are very treatable, especially when caught early. Treatment may include surgery, radiation, topical treatments, and more.
Treating Stage I Melanoma
Stage I melanoma is typically treated by wide excision . The width of the margin depends on the thickness and location of the melanoma. Most often, no other treatment is needed.
Some doctors may recommend a sentinel lymph node biopsy to look for cancer in nearby lymph nodes, especially if the melanoma is stage IB or has other characteristics that make it more likely to have spread. You and your doctor should discuss this option.
If the SLNB does not find cancer cells in the lymph nodes, then no further treatment is needed, although close follow-up is still important.
If cancer cells are found on the SLNB, a lymph node dissection might be recommended. Another option might be to watch the lymph nodes closely by getting an ultrasound of the nodes every few months.
If the SLNB found cancer, adjuvant treatment with an immune checkpoint inhibitor or targeted therapy drugs might be recommended to try to lower the chance the melanoma will come back. Other drugs or perhaps vaccines might also be options as part of a clinical trial.
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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
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.
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Skin Cancer On The Face: Types And Prevention
Casey Gallagher, MD, is board-certified in dermatology. He is a clinical professor at the University of Colorado in Denver, and co-founder and practicing dermatologist at the Boulder Valley Center for Dermatology in Colorado.
Because it is exposed to the sun more than other parts of the body, the skin on your face is especially vulnerable to skin cancer. And skin cancer on the face can be mistaken for other conditionssuch as age spots, pimples, scarring, acne, styes, and cysts.
Skin cancers that tend to occur more often on the face include actinic keratosis, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. The face is also a common site of melanoma and there are several other lesser-common skin cancers that can affect the face. The risk of getting skin cancers on the face increases with high amounts of sun exposure and other ultraviolet light exposure.
About 75% of non-melanoma skin cancers occur on the head or neck.
Skin cancer occurs when cells in the skin’s layers become damaged in ways that cause them to look and act differently than the normal healthy cells around them and start to grow out of control. UV rays play a major role in damaging cells by causing gene mutations.
You can watch for signs of skin cancer on your face by paying attention to new or odd-looking spots or feeling growths, splotches, or moles.
After Squamous Cell Cancer Of The Skin Has Been Diagnosed Tests Are Done To Find Out If Cancer Cells Have Spread Within The Skin Or To Other Parts Of The Body
The process used to find out if cancer has spread within the skin or to other parts of the body is called staging. The information gathered from the staging process determines the stage of the disease. It is important to know the stage in order to plan treatment for squamous cell carcinoma of the skin.
Basal cell carcinoma of the skin rarely spreads to other parts of the body. Staging tests to check whether basal cell carcinoma of the skin has spread are usually not needed.
The following tests and procedures may be used in the staging process for squamous cell carcinoma of the skin:
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Topical Treatments For Skin Cancer
Some skin spots and cancers can be treated with creams or gels that you apply to the skin. These are called topical treatments. They may contain immunotherapy or chemotherapy drugs, and are prescribed by a doctor.
You should use these treatments only on the specific spots or areas that your doctor has asked you to treat. Dont use leftover cream to treat new spots that have not been assessed by your doctor.
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The 6 Best Treatments For Skin Cancer On The Face
Skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in the U.S., affects a growing number of people each year, raising public awareness and concern as we seek better ways to both prevent and treat the disease.
In the U.S., over three million people receive a non-melanoma skin cancer diagnosis each year, with rates of malignant melanoma, one of the most serious forms of the disease, rising significantly in recent years, with more than 87,000 people expected to receive a diagnosis in 2017. People who experience skin cancer may even develop multiple cases of it each year.
In fact, skin cancer has become so prevalent that the number of new cases annually exceeds the number of breast, colon, lung, and prostate cancer diagnoses combined, reveals Dr. Adam Mamelak, a board certified Dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at Sanova Dermatology in Austin, Texas.
While exposure to dangerous ultraviolet rays from the sun usually receives the blame for causing skin cancer, particularly malignant melanoma, the disease has also been linked to chemicals and other exposures as well.
One of the more common areas where skin cancer manifests is the face, including the lips, cheeks, forehead, scalp, eyelids, and nose. These areas also prove challenging to treat.
Three common types of skin cancer include:
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Can Skin Cancer Be Prevented
In most cases, skin cancer can be prevented. The best way to protect yourself is to avoid too much sunlight and sunburns. Ultraviolet rays from the sun damage the skin, and over time lead to skin cancer.
Here are ways to protect yourself from skin cancer:
- Seek shade. Don’t spend long periods of time in direct sunlight.
- Wear hats with wide brims to protect your face and ears.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants to protect your arms and legs.
- Use broad-spectrum sunscreens with an SPF of 30 or higher that protect against burning and tanning rays. Apply the sunscreen 30 minutes before you go outside.
- Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.
- Use a lip balm with sunscreen.
- Avoid the sun between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
- Show any changing mole to your healthcare provider.
Staging For Basal Cell Carcinoma And Squamous Cell Carcinoma Of The Skin Depends On Where The Cancer Formed
Staging for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma of the eyelid is different from staging for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma found on other areas of the head or neck. There is no staging system for basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma that is not found on the head or neck.
Surgery to remove the primary tumor and abnormal lymph nodes is done so that tissue samples can be studied under a microscope. This is called pathologic staging and the findings are used for staging as described below. If staging is done before surgery to remove the tumor, it is called clinical staging. The clinical stage may be different from the pathologic stage.
What Are The Treatment Options For Skin Cancer
Most skin cancers are detected and cured before they spread. Melanoma that has spread to other organs presents the greatest treatment challenge.
Standard treatments for localized basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are safe and effective. Small tumors can be surgically excised, removed with a scraping tool and then cauterized, frozen with liquid nitrogen, or killed with low-dose radiation. Applying an ointment containing a chemotherapeutic agent called 5-fluorouracil — or an immune response modifier called imiquimod — to a superficial tumor for several weeks may also work. Larger localized tumors are removed surgically.
In rare cases where basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma has begun to spread beyond the skin, tumors are removed surgically and patients are treated with chemotherapy and radiation. Sometimes disfiguring or metastatic basal cell skin cancers that are not able to be treated by surgery or radiation are treated orally with sonidegib or vismodegib .
There are also drugs that target specific gene changes within normal cells that cause them to become cancerous. Often called targeted therapy, these drugs include dabrafenib , trametinib , and vemurafenib .
People who have had skin cancer once are at risk for getting it again. Anyone who has been treated for skin cancer of any kind should have a checkup at least once a year. About 20% of skin cancer patients experience recurrence, usually within the first two years after diagnosis.
Physical Emotional And Social Effects Of Cancer
Cancer and its treatment cause physical symptoms and side effects, as well as emotional, social, and financial effects. Managing all of these effects is called palliative care or supportive care. It is an important part of your care that is included along with treatments intended to slow, stop, or eliminate the cancer.
Palliative care focuses on improving how you feel during treatment by managing symptoms and supporting patients and their families with other, non-medical needs. Any person, regardless of age or type and stage of cancer, may receive this type of care. And it often works best when it is started right after a cancer diagnosis. People who receive palliative care along with treatment for the cancer often have less severe symptoms, better quality of life, and report that they are more satisfied with treatment.
Palliative treatments vary widely and often include medication, nutritional changes, relaxation techniques, emotional and spiritual support, and other therapies. You may also receive palliative treatments similar to those meant to get rid of the cancer, such as chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation therapy.
Before treatment begins, talk with your doctor about the goals of each treatment in the treatment plan. You should also talk about the possible side effects of the specific treatment plan and palliative care options.
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Mohs Surgery For Skin Cancer
During this procedure, a dermatologic surgeon removes a very thin layer of cancer tissue and examines it under a microscope. If skin cancer cells can be seen in the layer, the doctor continues shaving off layers one at a time until no cancer cells are found. This procedure has a very high cure rate and typically results in less scarring than excisions.
Mohs surgery is usually performed at a doctors office. The patients skin is numbed and occasionally a mild sedative is given. MD Anderson has a Mohs and Dermasurgery Center dedicated to this procedure.
What Home Remedies For Skin Cancer Can I Try
Here are a few ideas for taking charge of your skin health:
- Prevention is better than a cure. Ultraviolet light exposure is the most important risk factor for skin cancer. There are many things that you can do for yourself and your family to reduce UV exposure, including:
- Use a broad spectrum sunscreen with sun protection factor 15 or higher.
- Seek shade between 10 am and 2 pm.
- Wear long sleeves, long pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses.
- Avoid indoor tanning beds.
- Talk to your doctor.If you see a suspicious lesion, it is critically important to get an accurate diagnosis from your doctor. It may turn out not to be skin cancer at all. If it is skin cancer, discuss the treatment options with your doctor. Explain your concerns about scars or side effects. There may be several ways to treat the cancer. You may be able to find a treatment that meets your financial needs and cosmetic preferences with acceptable side effects.
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