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How Do You Know If You Have Melanoma Skin Cancer

Southern Cross Medical Library

How to Recognize Skin Cancer | Skin Cancer

The purpose of the Southern Cross Medical Library is to provide information of a general nature to help you better understand certain medical conditions. Always seek specific medical advice for treatment appropriate to you. This information is not intended to relate specifically to insurance or healthcare services provided by Southern Cross. For more articles go to;the Medical Library index page.

What You Need To Know About Sunburn

  • Some people are more prone to sunburn: Skin type determines your susceptibility; people with fair skin run the greatest risk. But anyone can get burned.
  • Even without a burn, sun exposure raises skin cancer risk. Even if you are tan or your skin type is dark and your skin does not redden, the sun can cause cellular damage that can lead to cancer.
  • The UV index is a factor: The sun varies in intensity by season, time of day and geographic location. A high UV index means that unprotected skin will burn faster or more severely. Be careful, especially when the sun is strongest. But even when the index is low, the risk remains. Protect yourself every day of the year.
  • You can burn on an overcast day:;Be careful even when the sun isnt shining. Up to 80 percent of UV rays can penetrate clouds.
  • Light pink is still bad: No matter how mild, every burn is a sign of injury to your skin that can result in premature aging and skin cancer.

The Warning Signs Of Skin Cancer

Skin cancers â including melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma â often start as changes to your skin. They can be new growths or precancerous lesions â changes that are not cancer but could become cancer over time. An estimated 40% to 50% of fair-skinned people who live to be 65 will develop at least one skin cancer. Learn to spot the early warning signs. Skin cancer can be cured if itâs found and treated early.

Recommended Reading: What Are The Early Stages Of Melanoma

Read Also: How To Reduce Risk Of Skin Cancer

Signs And Symptoms Of Melanoma Skin Cancer

How melanoma skin cancer looks can vary. Melanoma skin cancer often starts as an abnormal mole anywhere on the skin. A mole is a common non-cancerous growth. It is normally a small, round or oval spot that is usually brown, tan or pink. It may be raised or flat. Most people have a few moles.

A change in the colour, size or shape of a mole is usually the first sign of melanoma skin cancer. These changes can happen in a mole or spot that is already on your skin, or changes can appear as a new mole. Other health conditions can also look like melanoma skin cancer.

The ABCDE;rule below can help you look for the common signs and symptoms of melanoma skin cancer. See your doctor if you have any of these changes on your skin:

A is for asymmetry One-half of a mole does not have the same shape as the other half.

B is for border The edge of a mole is uneven . It can look jagged, notched or blurry. The colour may spread into the area around the mole.

C is for colour The colour of a mole is not the same throughout. It could have shades of tan, brown and black. Sometimes areas of blue, grey, red, pink or white are also seen.

D is for diameter The size of a mole is larger than 6;mm across, which is about the size of a pencil eraser.

E is for evolving There is a change in the colour, size, shape or feel of the mole. The mole may become itchy or you may have a burning or tingling feeling.

Other signs and symptoms of melanoma skin cancer include:

Make An Appointment With A Dermatologist

Would You Know Skin Cancer If You Saw It

After you have performed regular skin checks and once you discover a suspicious lesion, you have done your job. Now its time to see a dermatologist, a skin care specialist who can determine the definitive diagnosis. This may require a minor outpatient surgical procedure known as a biopsy. Occasionally, a more significant surgery will be required.

The biopsy specimen will be sent to the pathology lab who can determine whether or not the lesion was a skin cancer and, if it was, what type. Found early, skin cancer, even melanoma, is very treatable.

As for Peggy and Tina, happy to announce, neither were diagnosed with skin cancer.

Recommended Reading: Does Skin Cancer Make You Tired

Skin Cancer Is Easy To Self

One in five Americans is expected to develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Anyone can get it, regardless of skin color, age or gender.

Fortunately, skin cancer is one of the easiest of all cancers to diagnose. Further, if it is found early, it is relatively easy to treat. Because they are almost always visible on the skin, if the person is looking for changes, they are likely to find a skin cancer early.

The moral of the story: do self-examinations of your skin monthly.

Skin cancer can occur anywhere on the body, so be thorough. Check the nails, between the toes, and inside your mouth. Use a hand mirror to check hard to see areas, including your back and private places. When shampooing, feel around the scalp and glimpse through the hair.

What Is Metastatic Melanoma

Metastatic melanoma is melanoma that has spread beyond its original site in the skin to distant tissue sites. There are several types of metastatic melanoma. There may be spread through the lymphatic system to local lymph nodes. This may show up as swollen lymph glands or as a string of skin tumors along a lymphatic chain. Melanoma may also spread through the bloodstream , where it may appear in one or more distant sites, such as the lungs, liver, brain, remote skin locations, or any other body location.

Recommended Reading: Can Skin Cancer Be Cured

Skin Cancer Undiagnosed For Over 10 Years

The patient had neglected his illness for more than 10 years, says a case report in the International Open Access Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons .

The patient was a man, 48, living in a U.S. city. The medical attention was sought out due to the insistence of a family member, continues the paper.

The cancer was basal cell carcinoma that had grown to 10 centimeters on his scalp. Somehow this patient didnt mind living with an ulcerating, oozing and bleeding growth on his head.

Had he not sought treatment, he could have lived many more years barring death from an unrelated cause such as a heart attack or car accident.

With that all said, there is no data on what the record is for how long a person lived with an undiagnosed skin cancer.

Certainly you can imagine there must be many cases of people all over the world, living in undeveloped societies with scant medical care, let alone skin cancer awareness, whove been living for over 20 years with a slowly growing bump or patch.

This would describe basal cell carcinoma.

But a person will not get away for too long with an undiagnosed melanoma, as it WILL spread and cause symptoms of that spread, such as respiratory problems or ongoing severe headaches .

Dr. Musick says that the following are common ways that skin cancer shows up:

red bump that bleeds easily a scab or wound that just wont heal slowly enlarging pink or red patch of skin a dark irregularly-bordered bump or spot

Steven Musick, MD

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What Will Happen After Treatment

How to Know if it is Skin Cancer?

Youll be glad when treatment is over. For years after treatment, you will see your cancer doctor. Be sure to go to all of these follow-up visits. You will have exams, blood tests, and maybe other tests to see if the cancer has come back.

At first, your visits may be every few months. Then, the longer youre cancer-free, the less often the visits are needed. After 5 years, they may be done once a year.

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.

Recommended Reading: What Does Melanoma Look Like On The Leg

How Do You Treat Stage 4 Melanoma

The good news is that even stage 4 melanoma can be treated. The sooner the cancer is found, the sooner it can be removed and the higher your chances are for recovery. Stage 4 melanoma also has the most treatment options, but these options depend on:

  • where the cancer is
  • how advanced the cancer has become
  • your age and overall health

How you respond to treatment also affects your treatment options. The five standard treatments for melanoma are:

  • surgery: to remove the primary tumor and affected lymph nodes
  • chemotherapy: a drug treatment to stop growth of cancer cells
  • radiation therapy: the application of high-energy X-rays to inhibit growth and cancer cells
  • immunotherapy: treatment to boost your immune system
  • targeted therapy: the use of drugs or other substances to attack cancer drugs

Other treatments may also depend on where the cancer has spread to. Your doctor will discuss your options with you to help map out a treatment plan.

A Sore That Doesn’t Heal

Many skin cancers are first dismissed as being due to a bug bite, minor injury, or irritation, but become more obvious when they don’t go away over time. If you notice a sore on your skin that refuses to heal, even if it seems to be healing but then reappears, talk to your healthcare provider. In general, any skin change that hasn’t resolved on its own over a period of two weeks should be evaluated.;

Read Also: Is Stage 0 Melanoma Considered Cancer

What Are The Symptoms Of Skin Cancer Of The Head And Neck

Skin cancers usually present as an abnormal growth on the skin. The growth may have the appearance of a wart, crusty spot, ulcer, mole or sore. It may or may not bleed and can be painful. If you have a preexisting mole, any change in the characteristics of this spot – such as a raised or an irregular border, irregular shape, change in color, increase in size, itching or bleeding – are warning signs of melanoma. Sometimes the first sign of melanoma or squamous cell cancer is an enlarged lymph node.

Johns Hopkins Head and Neck Cancer Surgery Specialists

Our head and neck surgeons and speech language pathologists take a proactive approach to cancer treatment. Meet the Johns Hopkins specialists who will work closely with you during your journey.

Types Of Skin Cancer:

Would You Know Skin Cancer If You Saw It

Basal Cell found mainly in areas exposed to the sun, very common and usually very treatable. Detected at an early stage and removed promptly are almost always curable and cause minimal damage.Squamous Cell typically develops in chronic sun-exposed areas of your body.Melanoma more likely to grow and spread than the more common typesMerkel Cell very rare and tends to grow quickly, may be hard to treat if it spreads past beyond the skin

Read Also: Who Checks For Skin Cancer

What Are The Signs Of Melanoma

Knowing how to spot melanoma is important because early melanomas are highly treatable. Melanoma can appear as moles, scaly patches, open sores or raised bumps.

Use the American Academy of Dermatologys ABCDE memory device to learn the warning signs that a spot on your skin may be melanoma:

  • Asymmetry: One half does not match the other half.
  • Border: The edges are not smooth.
  • Color: The color is mottled and uneven, with shades of brown, black, gray, red or white.
  • Diameter: The spot is greater than the tip of a pencil eraser .
  • Evolving: The spot is new or changing in size, shape or color.

Some melanomas dont fit the ABCDE rule, so tell your doctor about any sores that wont go away, unusual bumps or rashes or changes in your skin or in any existing moles.

Another tool to recognize melanoma is the ugly duckling sign. If one of your moles looks different from the others, its the ugly duckling and should be seen by a dermatologist.

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.

Also Check: What Is Papillary Urothelial Carcinoma

When Melanoma Cant 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.

Also Check: Can Melanoma Skin Cancer Kill You

How To Check Your Own Skin

How to do a skin cancer CHECK! – Medical Doctor Explains

1. A full-length mirror

Looking into a full-length mirror helps check your back and sides.

2. Underarms, forearms, and palms.

Bend your elbows and look carefully at your forearms, underarms, and your palms.

3. Legs, toes and soles of your feet.

Look at the backs of your legs, feet, the spaces between your toes, and the soles of your feet.

4. A hand mirror can help you check your neck, scalp, back and buttocks.

A small mirror can be handy to check your own back, buttocks and the back of your neck. Even behind your ears is easier to see with a hand mirror.

Also Check: How Often Does Basal Cell Carcinoma Spread

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

  • Dome-shaped growth

  • 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

  • Itches

  • Bleeds

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.

What Are The Survival Rates For Metastatic Melanoma

Survival rates for melanoma, especially for metastatic melanoma, vary widely according to many factors, including the patient’s age, overall health, location of the tumor, particular findings on the examination of the biopsy, and of course the depth and stage of the tumor. Survival statistics are generally based on 5-year survival rates rather than raw cure rates. Much of the success reported for the targeted therapies focuses on disease-free time because in many cases the actual 5-year survival is not affected. It is hoped that combination therapy discussed above will change that.

  • For stage 1 , 5-year survival is ⥠90%.
  • For stage 2 , 5-year survival is 80%-90%.
  • For stage 3 , 5-year survival is around 50%.
  • For stage 4 , 5-year survival is 10%-25% depending upon sex and other demographic factors.

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How Is Melanoma Treated

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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