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How Do You Know If Skin Cancer Has Spread

Skin Cancer On The Face: Types And Prevention

How do you determine if the melanoma has spread?

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.

Taking Care Of Yourself

Hearing that your cancer has spread is scary, but a lot of research is underway to find new treatments. And there are treatments available to try to stop the disease from spreading, so you can live longer.

It’s important to have support and to talk about your fears and feelings, too. Your doctor can help you find a cancer support group.

These tips may help you feel better during melanoma treatment:

  • If you lose your appetite, eat small amounts of food every 2 to 3 hours instead of bigger meals. A dietitian can give you other tips on nutrition and eating during your cancer treatment. Ask your doctor for a referral.
  • Exercise can help you feel better overall and fight fatigue. But listen to your body, and balance rest and activity.
  • Get the kind of emotional support that’s right for you. It could be from family, friends, your cancer support group, or a religious group.

What Are The Treatments For Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Your doctor will help you to decide on the best type of treatment. Factors in the decision include your overall health and age, the location of the cancer, and how invasive the cancer is.

Treatment options include:

  • Scratching off with a curette, an instrument that may end in a ring or a spoon, and then burning with a special electric needle. This method is called electrodessication and curettage.
  • Surgical removal:
  • Mohs surgery: This is a specialized technique. The doctor first removes the visible cancer and then begins cutting around the edges. The tissues are examined during the surgery until no more cancer cells are found in tissues around the wound. If necessary, a skin graft or flap might be applied to help the wound heal.
  • Excisional surgery: The growth and a bit of surrounding skin is removed with a scalpel.
  • Freezing .
  • Applying chemotherapy medication to the skin.
  • Using lasers.
  • Using blue light and a light-sensitive agent applied to the skin .
  • Using radiation .
  • If you have some type of advanced or very invasive SCC, you might find that it returns or metastasizes . There are several medications which have been approved to treat locally advanced cancers that cannot be simply treated or those that have spread to other areas of the body.

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    What Will Happen After Treatment

    Youll be glad when treatment is over. Your doctor will want you to check your skin at least once a month. It will be very important to protect yourself from getting too much sun.

    For years after treatment ends, you will see your skin cancer doctor. At first, your visits may be every few months. Then, the longer youre cancer-free, the less often the visits are needed. Be sure to go to all of these follow-up visits. Your doctor will ask about symptoms and check you for signs of the cancer coming back or a new skin cancer. Other exams and tests may also be done.

    Having cancer and dealing with treatment can be hard, but it can also be a time to look at your life in new ways. You might be thinking about how to improve your health. Call us at 1-800-227-2345 or talk to your cancer care team to find out what you can do to feel better.

    You cant change the fact that you have cancer. What you can change is how you live the rest of your life making healthy choices and feeling as good as you can.

    How Is Melanoma Treated

    How to Tell if Moles Are Skin Cancer

    Your melanoma treatment will depend on the stage of the melanoma and your general health.

    Surgery is usually the main treatment for melanoma. The procedure involves cutting out the cancer and some of the normal skin surrounding it. The amount of healthy skin removed will depend on the size and location of the skin cancer. Typically, surgical excision of melanoma can be performed under local anesthesia in the dermatologist’s office. More advanced cases may require other types of treatment in addition to or instead of surgery.

    Treatments for melanoma:

    • Melanoma Surgery: In the early stages, surgery has a high probability of being able to cure your melanoma. Usually performed in an office, a dermatologist numbs the skin with a local anesthetic and removes the melanoma and margins .
    • Lymphadenectomy: In cases where melanoma has spread, removal of the lymph nodes near the primary diagnosis site may be required. This can prevent the spread to other areas of your body.
    • Metastasectomy: Metastasectomy is used to remove small melanoma bits from organs.
    • Targeted cancer therapy: In this treatment option, drugs are used to attack specific cancer cells. This targeted approach goes after cancer cells, leaving healthy cells untouched.
    • Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy includes treatments with high-energy rays to attack cancer cells and shrink tumors.
    • Immunotherapy: immunotherapy stimulates your own immune system to help fight the cancer.

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    How To Tell If Squamous Cell Carcinoma Has Spread

    Many doctors will order a PET or CT scan once a squamous cell carcinoma diagnosis has been reached to ensure the cancer has not spread to other parts of the body and is contained within the layers of the skin. Your doctor may also test your lymph nodes near the tumor site.

    Diagnostic services, staging services and a comprehensive range of treatments are all available at Moffitt Cancer Center, and referrals are not required. To learn more about squamous cell carcinoma stages and the treatment options for each, call or submit a new patient registration form online.

    • BROWSE

    Use A Calendar To Mark Each Good Day And Bad Day

    Often pets will have ups and downs during their final months. At the end of every day, make a mark on a calendar to note if you believe your pet had an overall good day or an overall bad day.

    Once the number of bad days outweighs the good days in a week, its time to discuss humane euthanasia with your veterinarian.

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    When To Contact A Doctor

    If a person notices any signs of cancer having spread to their lymph nodes, they should speak with a doctor immediately.

    Additionally, if a person with cancer notices any unusual new symptoms, they should contact a doctor. The sooner a person receives treatment for cancer that has spread, the better their chances of survival.

    If Oral Cancer Spreads

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    Cancer cells can spread from the mouth to other parts of the body. This spread is called metastasis.

    Understanding how a type of cancer usually grows and spreads helps your healthcare team plan your treatment and future care. Oral cancer can spread differently depending on where in the mouth it starts. If oral cancer spreads, it can spread to the following:

    • other parts of the mouth
    • muscle surrounding the mouth
    • lymph nodes in the neck
    • surrounding the mouth
    • skin on the face

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    Symptoms If Cancer Has Spread To The Bone

    You might have any of the following symptoms if your cancer has spread to the bones:

    • pain from breakdown of the bone the pain is continuous and people often describe it as gnawing
    • backache, which gets worse despite resting
    • weaker bones they can break more easily
    • raised blood calcium , which can cause dehydration, confusion, sickness, tummy pain and constipation
    • low levels of blood cells blood cells are made in the bone marrow and can be crowded out by the cancer cells, causing anaemia, increased risk of infection, bruising and bleeding

    Cancer in the spinal bones can cause pressure on the spinal cord. If it isn’t treated, it can lead to weakness in your legs, numbness, paralysis and loss of bladder and bowel control . This is called spinal cord compression. It is an emergency so if you have these symptoms, you need to contact your cancer specialist straight away or go to the accident and emergency department.

    How Can Melanoma Spread To The Brain

    While melanoma normally begins in the skin, cancer cells sometimes grow and break away from the place where the cancer began. The cells that break away often travel to nearby:

    • Blood vessels

    • Lymph nodes

    Once in the blood or lymph , the melanoma cells often travel to the lungs, liver, spleen, or brain.

    Cancer cells growing bigger than normal cells

    Cancer cells can grow, break off, and spread.

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    Discuss With Family And Friends Who Know Both You And Your Pet

    Sometimes having a second opinion about your dog and their quality of life from someone who knows them can give perspective on your pets condition and help in the decision-making process.

    Allowing family and friends to know you are facing this dilemma can allow them to be a support system for you and help keep the focus on making the right decision for your beloved pet.

    Stop Tumors In Their Tracks

    Online Dermatology

    Every melanoma has the potential to become deadly, but the difference between an in situ melanoma and one that has begun to metastasize cannot be overstated. There is a drastic change in the survival rate for the various stages of tumors, highlighting the importance of detecting and treating melanomas before they have a chance to progress. Its impossible to predict exactly how fast a melanoma will move from stage to stage, so you should be taking action as soon as possible.

    To be sure youre spotting any potential skin cancers early, The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends monthly skin checks, and scheduling an annual total body skin exam with a dermatologist. These skin exams can help you take note of any new or changing lesions that have the potential to be cancerous, and have them biopsied and taken care of before they can escalate.

    Trust your instincts and dont take no for an answer, Leland says. Insist that a doctor biopsy anything you believe is suspicious.

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    Your Veterinarian Is There To Help

    If you have done the above steps and are still unsure if you should euthanize, understand that this is normal.

    Make an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss your concerns and thoughts with them. They can help support you during this difficult decision.

    One of the nicest things we can do for our beloved companions is to allow them to pass in peace and with dignity by limiting the suffering they might experience in their final moments or days.

    It is never an easy decision, but ultimately it is a humane one.

    Risk Factors For Metastatic Melanomas

    You cannot get metastatic melanoma without first having melanoma, though the primary melanoma may be so small its undetectable. Major risk factors for melanomas include:

    • Light skin, light-colored hair or light-colored eyes
    • Skin prone to burning easily
    • Multiple blistering sunburns as a child
    • Family history of melanoma
    • Frequent exposure to sun or ultraviolet radiation
    • Certain genetic mutations
    • Exposure to environmental factors, such as radiation or vinyl chloride

    Other factors have been connected with increased metastasis. In a 2018 study in the Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia and a 2019 study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the following factors were associated with higher levels of metastasis:

    • Male gender
    • Primary tumor thickness of more than 4 mm
    • Nodular melanoma, which is a specific subtype that a care team would identify
    • Ulceration of the primary tumor

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    Can Skin Cancer On The Scalp Spread To The Brain

    Yes. If left untreated, skin cancer on the scalp can spread from your scalp to other areas of your body, including your brain.

    This is known as metastatic cancer or, in some areas, stage IV cancer. Spreading to the brain is a relatively common form of metastatic skin cancer, especially with melanoma, which is part of why early treatment is essential.

    You Can Find Skin Cancer On Your Body

    Skin Cancer – What You Need To Know

    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.

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    Red Flag #: Bone Pain Or Fractures

    The bones are considered a late-stage site of melanoma metastasestypically, it doesnt spread to the bones until its already spread to another area of the body first. Melanoma can cause pain in the bones where its spread, and some peoplethose with very little body fat covering their bonesmay be able to feel a lump or mass. Metastatic melanoma can also weaken the bones, making them fracture or break very easily. This is most common in the arms, legs, and spine. If you feel any sharp, sudden, or new pains that wont go away, talk to your doctor.

    What Is Metastatic Cancer

    Cancer that spreads from where it started to a distant part of the body is called metastatic cancer. For many types of cancer, it is also called stage IV cancer. The process by which cancer cells spread to other parts of the body is called metastasis.

    When observed under a microscope and tested in other ways, metastatic cancer cells have features like that of the primary cancer and not like the cells in the place where the metastatic cancer is found. This is how doctors can tell that it is cancer that has spread from another part of the body.

    Metastatic cancer has the same name as the primary cancer. For example, breast cancer that spreads to the lung is called metastatic breast cancer, not lung cancer. It is treated as stage IV breast cancer, not as lung cancer.

    Sometimes when people are diagnosed with metastatic cancer, doctors cannot tell where it started. This type of cancer is called cancer of unknown primary origin, or CUP. See the Carcinoma of Unknown Primary page for more information.

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    Metastatic Lung Cancer Started Someplace Else

    Primary tumors can spread from almost anywhere in the body to your lungs. But some types of cancer are more likely to grow in your lungs. These include:

    • Cancer treatments youâve already had
    • How you want to treat your cancer

    Cancer that has spread to your lungs is also probably in your bloodstream. It could be in places that donât show up on imaging scans. Thatâs why doctors mostly use chemotherapy to treat metastatic lung cancer. It destroys cancerous cells everywhere in your body.

    Surgery Is less common. Doctors use it if the tumors are only in a small part of the lung . It can also help when the primary cancer is colorectal cancer, bone cancer, or soft tissue sarcoma.

    Other treatment options include:

    • Hormonal therapy. This slows the growth of certain types of cancer cells and eases your symptoms.
    • Targeted therapy. It uses medications that attach to proteins on cancer cells to stop or slow their growth.
    • Immunotherapy. This uses your bodyâs immune system to destroy cancer cells.
    • Ablation therapy. It destroys cancer cells or tumors with lasers or electrical currents.
    • Radiation. High energy X-rays are used to destroy tumors.
    • Thoracentesis. This uses a needle to remove fluid in the space between your lungs and chest wall.
    • Oxygen therapy. It helps you breathe.
    • Stents. They open up narrowed airways.

    What Are The Symptoms Of Melanoma That Has Spread

    Melanoma: How do you know if a mole is dangerous?

    Melanoma that has spread from the skin to other areas of the body is known as metastatic melanoma. However, since melanoma often first presents itself as an abnormal mole, many people with this malignancy can receive a diagnosis before the cancer has spread. This mole may be asymmetrical, have an uneven border, have an inconsistent color, be large or change over time. A melanoma may also appear as a sore or itchy bump, a tender nodule or a patch of skin that is scaly or bleeding. In some cases, early signs of melanoma are not present. For example, if the cancer starts in a mucous membrane rather than on the skin, a mole may not be present.

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