How Is Skin Cancer Diagnosed
First, your dermatologist may ask you if you have noticed any changes in any existing moles, freckles or other skin spots or if youve noticed any new skin growths. Next, your dermatologist will examine all of your skin, including your scalp, ears, palms of your hands, soles of your feet, between your toes, around your genitals and between your buttocks.
If a skin lesion is suspicious, a biopsy may be performed. In a biopsy, a sample of tissue is removed and sent to a laboratory to be examined under a microscope by a pathologist. Your dermatologist will tell you if your skin lesion is skin cancer, what type you have and discuss treatment options.
Basal Cell And Squamous Cell Survival Rates
Because basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are lower-risk skin cancers, theres little information on survival rates based on stage.
Both types of cancer have a very high cure rate. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate for basal cell carcinoma is 100 percent. The five-year survival rate for squamous cell carcinoma is 95 percent.
How Fast Does Melanoma Spread
Melanoma is a deadly form of skin cancer because of its ability to metastasize to local lymph nodes and other organs. It is estimated that melanoma kills, on average, over 10,000 people in the United States every year.
The first sign of flat melanoma is usually a new spot or an existing mole or freckle that changes in appearance. Some changes can include:
- A spot that has grown in size
- A spot where the edges are looking irregular versus smooth and even
- A spot that has a range of colors such as brown, black, blue, red, white or light gray.
- A spot that has become itchy or is bleeding
According to Dr. Andrew Duncanson, board-certified dermatologist at Forefront Dermatology, It is important to know that melanoma can appear on areas of the skin not normally exposed to the sun such as under the arm, chest, and buttocks. It can also appear in areas that you are not able to see easily on your own including the ears, scalp, back of legs, and bottom of feet. I always recommend to my patients to look for the ugly duckling spot the new spot that doesnt look like any others. Additionally, ask a family member to look over the hard to see areas monthly, while also getting an annual skin cancer exam by a board-certified dermatologist to detect skin cancer early.
Also Check: Invasive Breast Cancer Survival Rate
Biological Therapies And Melanoma
Biological therapies are treatments using substances made naturally by the body. Some of these treatments are called immunotherapy because they help the immune system fight the cancer, or they occur naturally as part of the immune system.
There are many biological therapies being researched and trialled, which in the future may help treat people with melanoma. They include monoclonal antibodies and vaccine therapy.
Leaving Basal Cell Carcinoma Untreated
Basal cell carcinoma is a slow growing cancer, but this doesnt mean it can be ignored. This is the least dangerous form of skin cancer and rarely spreads to other internal parts of the body. While death is a rare consequence there is the potential for disfigurement. Over time basal cell carcinoma can expand and cause ulcers and damage the skin and tissues.
Any damage could be permanent and have an impact on the way you look. Depending on how long the basal cell carcinoma has been present, radiotherapy may be required. This is the most common form of skin cancer and is often found on the face. You may notice a small lump which is shiny or pearl like and this is a sign you should get checked. This type of cancer generally does not cause any pain.
Read Also: Osteomyoma
Recommended Reading: What Is Large Cell Carcinoma
Can Skin Cancer Spread To Other Parts Of The Body
Yes, it can. However, it depends on the type of skin cancer and its stage.
Non-melanoma skin cancers are less likely to spread. Basal cell carcinoma usually does not migrate to other parts of the body, but there is a small chance that squamous cell cancer will do so.
Melanoma skin cancer spreads more readily than non-melanoma, making it more dangerous. It can spread to the lymph nodes and, from there, to other organs in the body.
Different Kinds Of Skin Cancer
There are many types of skin cancer. Some are very rare. Your doctor can tell you more about the type you have.
The two most common kinds of skin cancers are:
- Basal cell cancer, which starts in the lowest layer of the skin
- Squamous cell cancer, which starts in the top layer of the skin
Another kind of skin cancer is called melanoma. These cancers start from the color-making cells of the skin . You can read about melanoma in If You Have Melanoma Skin Cancer.
You May Like: Metastatic Melanoma Cancer Life Expectancy
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.
Who Is Most At Risk For Skin Cancer
Although anyone can develop skin cancer, youre at increased risk if you:
- Spend a considerable amount of time working or playing in the sun.
- Get easily sunburned have a history of sunburns.
- Live in a sunny or high-altitude climate.
- Tan or use tanning beds.
- Have light-colored eyes, blond or red hair and fair or freckled skin.
- Have many moles or irregular-shaped moles.
- Have actinic keratosis .
- Have a family history of skin cancer.
- Have had an organ transplant.
- Take medications that suppress or weaken your immune system.
- Have been exposed to ultraviolet light therapy for treating skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis.
You May Like: Melanoma 3b
What Makes Yale Medicines Approach To Squamous Cell Carcinoma Unique
Simple, small cancers can often be treated very well by a local dermatologist, according to Dr. Leffell. We rarely see the small cancers. We get referred to the cases that need special attention.
Dr. Leffell emphasizes that at Yale Medicine, the patient always comes first. We like to have a discussion with the patient about what happens after the skin cancer is removed, he says. We talk about whatâs involved with plastic surgery and whatâs involved with letting the area heal naturally. We prefer to take a minimalist approach and let the patient decide what they want us to do and how they want to let their skin heal.
If the decision is made to repair the wound using plastic surgery, we do that immediately in the office setting, Dr. Leffell says. Alternatively, allowing the wound to heal naturally is often a great option, and does not rule out doing plastic surgery down the road if needed, though that is very rarely the case.
Donât Miss: Does Skin Cancer Burn And Itch
Treatment Options For Skin Cancer
If you have skin cancer, Cochise Oncology offers a range of options to treat the disease.
For most skin cancers, surgery is the main form of treatment. These procedures involve removing cancerous tissues so that they cannot spread to other parts of the body.
Oncologists may also recommend radiation treatment that uses intense forms of radiation to kill cancer cells. When treating skin cancer, doctors can focus the radiation on cancerous cells, leaving healthy tissue unharmed.
Some skin cancer patients may also require chemotherapy a class of drugs designed to fight a variety of cancers. Typically, doctors use treatments like these if skin cancer cells spread to the organs or lymph nodes.
Don’t Miss: Invasive Ductal Breast Cancer Survival Rate
Red Flag #: Chest Pain And Trouble Breathing
Melanoma is also known to spread to the lungs, though Dr. Zaba notes that most people dont experience noticeable symptoms in the lungs until a tumor has gotten pretty large. A cough that just wont quit or recurring chest infections can signal that the cancer has traveled to the lungs, Dr. Polsky says. Shortness of breath or trouble breathing can also be a red flag.
What Is Metastatic Melanoma
Melanoma often spreads to:
Although in many cases metastatic melanoma canât be cured, treatments and support can help you live longer and better. Doctors have therapies that have greatly increased survival rates. And researchers are working to find new medications that can do even more.
Remember: You still have control over the decisions you make about your treatment and your life. It’s important to have people you can talk to about your plans, your fears, and your feelings. So find support and learn about your treatment options. That will help you make the most of your life.
Recommended Reading: Large Cell Cancers
How To Tell If Squamous Cell Carcinoma Has Spread
While its not common for squamous cell carcinoma to spread, it is helpful to be mindful of the signs. First, there are certain known risk factors to be aware of, as these characteristics have been associated with a higher stage of squamous cell carcinoma. Risk factors for squamous cell spreading include:
- The tumor is thicker than 2 millimeters.
- The tumor has grown into the lower dermis or subcutis layers of the skin.
- The tumor has grown into the nerves in the skin.
- The tumor is present on the ear or on a hair-bearing lip.
Knowing the stage of your cancer will help your medical team understand how serious it is and how best to treat it. Staging squamous cell carcinoma is based on a physical exam, detailed history, skin biopsy, lymph node biopsy, and imaging studies.
To determine if your cancer has spread, your physician may recommend several diagnostic tests. A skin or lymph node biopsy can show how far cancer cells have spread in the region of the primary tumor. Your medical team may also recommend a computed tomography scan to determine the spread.
You may also be able to recognize squamous cell carcinoma spreading by its appearance. Possible symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma include:
- A thick, red, scaly patch of skin
- An open sore or scar
- An elevated growth that is usually pink, red, or the color of your flesh.
- A wartlike nodule with raised edges
While most squamous cell carcinoma lesions are painless, it is possible to experience pain or numbness at the site.
Symptoms Of Metastatic Melanoma Other Than A Mole
Other symptoms of this type of cancer may not appear until a later stage, when the melanoma has metastasized to another area of the body. Metastatic melanoma most often spreads to the lymph nodes, brain, bones, liver or lungs, and the additional symptoms experienced at this late stage will depend on where the melanoma has spread. For example:
- Lungs A persistent cough or shortness of breath
- Brain Headaches or seizures
Read Also: Melanoma 3c
Red Flag #: Swollen Lymph Nodes
If melanoma spreads, it often goes to the lymph nodes first, says Melinda L. Yushak, M.D., assistant professor of hematology and medical oncology at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. The cancer cells will first travel to the nodes closest to the original tumor, she says. Lymph nodes are located throughout your entire body, but large clusters are found in the neck, underarms, chest, abdomen, and groin. If the cancer has made its way to the lymph nodes, it usually wont be painful, but theyll feel swollen or even hard to the touch, Dr. Zaba says.
Are There Complications Of Skin Cancer Treatment
Most skin cancer treatments involve some localised damage to surrounding healthy skin such as swelling, reddening or blistering of the skin where the cancer is removed. Your doctor will explain any specific risks, which may include:
- pain or itching where the skin has been treated, or if lymph nodes have been removed
- scarring or changes to skin colour, after a skin cancer has been removed
- bleeding during or after surgery for more complicated skin cancers
- reactions sometimes your body may react to medicines used in treatment or surgery
- lymphoedema if your lymph nodes have been removed your neck, arm or leg may swell with fluid.
Its best to manage complications as early as possible, so ask your doctor for advice.
Also Check: Stage 3 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Survival Rate
Treating Stage 3 Melanoma
If the melanoma has spread to nearby lymph nodes , further surgery may be needed to remove them.
Stage 3 melanoma may be diagnosed by a sentinel node biopsy, or you or a member of your treatment team may have felt a lump in your lymph nodes.
The diagnosis of melanoma is usually confirmed using a needle biopsy .
Removing the affected lymph nodes is done under general anaesthetic.
The procedure, called a lymph node dissection, can disrupt the lymphatic system, leading to a build-up of fluids in your limbs. This is known as lymphoedema.
Cancer Research UK has more information about surgery to remove lymph nodes.
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.
You May Like: Malignant Breast Cancer Survival Rate
What Are The 5 Stages Of Skin Cancer
Staging is an important tool used to treat skin cancer. Your stage helps the medical team determine where the tumor is, how large it is, where it has spread, your prognosis, and the most effective treatment plan.
The five stages of squamous cell carcinoma include:
- Stage 0: Also known as carcinoma in situ, in this stage cancer is present in the epidermis. It has not spread to deeper layers.
- Stage 1: The tumor is smaller than 2 centimeters and has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or other organs. The individual has one or fewer risk factors for spread.
- Stage 2: The tumor is wider than 2 centimeters and has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or other organs. This stage also applies to any sized tumor when the individual has two or more risk factors.
- Stage 3: The tumor has spread into nearby facial bones or one lymph node. It has not spread to other organs.
- Stage 4: The tumor is of any size and has metastasized to one or more of the lymph nodes. It may have spread to the bones and other distant organs.
The Importance Of Annual Skin Cancer Checks
Annual skin cancer screenings are an essential tool that we use at Cochise Oncology to identify potential skin cancer lesions early. These assessments can give you peace of mind and identify potential cancer candidates.
A skin cancer screening is a physical examination performed by oncologists to determine the health of your skin. Doctors will look for large, asymmetric moles or skin imperfections that indicate possible cancer. If they discover a skin imperfection requiring closer inspection, they may take a small sample of tissue and send it to the lab for further investigation.
Also Check: What Does Stage 3 Melanoma Look Like
How To Tell Whether Squamous Cell Carcinoma Has Spread
at the last stage of the disease, cancer can spread to the brain. Since it is not typical for squamous cell carcinoma to spread at a high rate, it is essential to be careful of the signs displayed on your skin.
There are those common signs which one can see some of the risk factors which shows that squamous cell carcinoma has spread include the tumor growing more than two millimeters, cancer moving to the lower dermis of the skin, cancer has grown to the nerves in the skin, and when the cancer is present of the skin hair.
At this point, knowing the stage of your squamous cell carcinoma will help in understanding the rate at which the squamous cell carcinoma has spread and the proper medication you need to reduce the spread of cancer to other parts of the body. Staging squamous cell carcinoma includes doing a physical exam, skin biopsy, more history, lymph nodes biopsy, and developing studies.
Many diagnostic tests will help your doctor know the stage your cancer has reached. Removing some samples of your skin and doing tests in the lab can help determine the level of the tumor in your body. You can also understand whether squamous cell carcinoma has spread more in your body you can go for medications as early as the first stage. Nowadays, a computed tomography scan is used to see the stage at which squamous cell carcinoma has spread in the body.