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How To Know If It Is Skin Cancer

Ask About Your Skin Cancer Treatment Options

How to Know if it is Skin Cancer?

Among the most common treatments for facial skin cancer is Mohs surgery. Mohs involves removing the cancer in thin layers. This approach helps preserve surrounding healthy tissue and has a very high cure rate.

Mohs can be a lengthy process, taking several hours or longer, says Dr. Lee. I do everything I can to keep my patients comfortable and inform them of how things are going at each step.

Dr. Lee adds that not everyone with skin cancer on the face will need Mohs surgery. There may be other treatment options that are right for you. Its OK to ask. And if you do have options, ask your doctor to explain the pros and cons of each before you make your decision, she says.

Sometimes Mohs really is the best option for facial cancer, however. Thats typically the case with skin cancer on the nose or eyelid. The nose and the eyelid are tougher areas to treat for a variety of reasons, says Dr. Lee. It takes finesse to achieve excellent cosmetic results in these areas. Removing a cancer from the eyelid also has a lot of challenges related to how the eyelid functions and feels to the patient after the surgery.

Are Moles Cancerous How To Tell If Your Moles May Be Cancer

Are moles cancerous? It depends on what you mean by âmoleâ!

Most of our patients think of coloured and/or raised spots on their skin as moles âthis means that yes, some âmolesâ actually are skin cancers.

A skin cancer doctor or a dermatologist thinks of moles and skin cancers as two separate things: a mole isnât a skin cancer, and a skin cancer isnât a mole. The difference between moles and skin cancers isnât always obvious. Sometimes an early skin cancer looks like a mole, and sometimes an odd-looking mole looks like skin cancer.

But when people ask if their moles might be cancerous they arenât using this strict interpretation.

For the purposes of this page, we consider a mole to be a spot or lump on the surface of the skin, because this is the way our patients tend to think.

Can Warts Be Prevented

Its difficult to prevent the development of warts altogether, but since warts are contagious, taking steps to avoid contact with people who have warts, as well as their clothing or other items that have been in contact with warts, is the easiest way to reduce your risk for developing warts. Those who have received the HPV vaccine may also be less likely to develop warts. Additional steps you can take to prevent the development of warts and avoid spreading them to other people or other parts of the body include:

  • Wear shoes in public showers, pools, saunas, changing rooms, and gyms
  • Dont touch or scratch your warts other than to apply topical treatments, and wash hands thoroughly after touching warts
  • Keep warts covered
  • Dont shave the area directly over a wart
  • Dont share towels, linens, clothing, nail clippers, pumice stones, or other items
  • Immediately clean, disinfect, and cover all scrapes or scratches
  • Avoid excessive dryness or cracked skin by moisturizing regularly
  • Dont bite fingernails and take care when grooming your nails
  • Use barrier birth control methods to avoid contracting genital warts

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Skin Cancer And 5 Signs To Watch For

You might not feel like you need sun protection in these cold, dark days of winter. But those rays are still damaging, and sunscreen should continue to be used as part of your daily routine. This is especially true for your face and hands, as those tend to still get sun even when it is cold.

Your daily routine should also include checking for any signs of cancer. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and one in five Americans will develop a skin cancer in their lifetime.

That is why looking at your own skin is so critical. It sounds easy to do, but many people do not or cannot do a thorough skin check especially on our backs, scalp, and between the toes.

Remember, suspicious moles are not the only signs of skin cancer. What else should you look for?

Consider Getting A Second Opinion On Pathology

How To Tell If You Have A Skin Cancer Spot / Would You ...

The first step in diagnosing skin cancer is a skin biopsy. The tissue sample taken during the biopsy is sent to a pathologist, who then examines the cells under a microscope. Pathologists are usually certain about their diagnoses. But there are instances when the cancer cells look unusual or the pathology is inconclusive for some other reason.

How do you know if you need a second opinion if no one has told you to get one? Start by asking your doctor, says Dr. Lee. One way you might phrase the question is, Was the pathology definitive? If the doctor says no, thats your cue to seek out a second opinion on your pathology.

You can also review the pathology report yourself. Sometimes the report will say the diagnosis is inconclusive. Also be on the lookout for phrases such as most in keeping with or features of, says Dr. Lee. This is terminology indicating that the pathologist formed a hypothesis but wasnt absolutely certain.

One of the benefits of coming to MSK for care is that we review the pathology, says Dr. Lee. Most of the time we confirm the original diagnosis, but occasionally we do see differences.

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Red Flags For Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Like basal cell cancer, squamous cell cancer tends to develop on parts of the body that get a lot of sun, such as the face, neck, ear, lip, and back of the hands.

It might also appear in scars or skin sores anywhere on the body

While squamous cell carcinoma can look like a flat area closely resembling healthy skin, there may be clearer signs of malignancy, according to the SCF, including:

  • Rough or scaly red patches that may bleed or crust
  • Raised growths or lumps, sometimes with a depression in the center
  • Open sores, possibly with oozing or crusted areas, that dont heal or that go through cycles of healing and bleeding
  • Growths that resemble warts

Read Also: How Fast Can Melanoma Spread

The Abcde Rule Of Melanoma

National Cancer Institute

When checking for early signs of melanoma, it’s helpful to use the ABCDE rule. The ABCDE abbreviation stands for:

  • Asymmetry: An irregular shape
  • Border: Ragged, notched, or blurred edges
  • Color: Different colors or shades within the mole
  • Diameter: Diameters over 6 millimeters
  • Evolving: Changes in size, shape, color, or appearance

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Precancerous Conditions Of The Skin

Actinic keratosis is a precancerous condition of the skin. Precancerous conditions of the skin are changes to the skin cells that make them more likely to develop into cancer. Actinic keratosis is not yet cancer. But if it isnt treated, it may develop into a type of non-melanoma skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. Actinic keratosis is also called solar keratosis.

Actinic keratosis most often develops on areas exposed to the sun, such as the face, ears, neck, bald scalp, arms and backs of hands.

What Are The Abcdefs

How to Recognize Skin Cancer | Skin Cancer
  • A stands for asymmetry. If you drew a line down the middle of the spot, one half would not be the same shape as the other half.
  • B stands for border irregularity. The edges of the area are not sharp and clear, but ragged and different in areas of the periphery.
  • C stands for color variation in the lesion. An abnormal mole or spot contains multiple different colors, ranging from tan, brown or black to white, red or even blue. A normal pigment cell birthmark or mole usually is uniformly colored or has two shades of a color arranged regularly, one shade in the center and one on the periphery symmetrically.
  • D stands for increased diameter. The abnormal spot is wider than the top of a pencil eraser more than 6 mm in diameter.
  • E stands for evolution. Over weeks or months, the spot has grown, changed shape or color, or changed in texture or internal structure.
  • F is for funny or funky, says Dr. Paragh. F really stands for the ugly duckling sign, which tells you to watch out for anything that looks very different from anything else on your skin, he adds. Sometimes that can help you catch problem spots a lot earlier than you might be able to otherwise. This highlights the importance of considering lesions which look very different from other lesions, even if they do not fulfil the above criteria.

What is melanoma?

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How Do I Protect My Skin From Uv Radiation And Skin Cancer

You can take steps to protect your skin from UV radiation. While sunscreen plays a vital role in protecting your skin from UV radiation, it can’t prevent skin damage if you are exposed to the sun’s rays for long periods of time. Experts recommend that you use multiple methods to fully protect your skin.

Preventing skin cancer isn’t always possible. But being alert for new spots or skin growths and having your doctor check your skin regularly may help find skin cancer early when it can be more easily treated.

What Are My Options If A Mole Is Cancerous

Most of the time, if a mole is discovered to be a skin cancer, it isnât a serious health risk. Nearly all skin cancers diagnosed in a skin cancer clinic are successfully treated.

If a skin cancer doctor or dermatologist suspects that amole might be a skin cancer, the options are:

  • Take a punch or shave biopsy to get more information
  • Perform a surgical excision to completely remove the mole. This is almost always the better option if your doctor suspects that the mole is a more serious skin cancer such as melanoma or Merkel cell carcinoma.

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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.

What About Other Treatments That I Hear About

How Do You Know If You Have A Cancerous Mole

When you have cancer you might hear about other ways to treat the cancer or treat your symptoms. These may not always be standard medical treatments. These treatments may be vitamins, herbs, special diets, and other things. You may wonder about these treatments.

Some of these are known to help, but many have not been tested. Some have been shown not to help. A few have even been found to be harmful. Talk to your doctor about anything youre thinking about using, whether its a vitamin, a diet, or anything else.

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What Causes Skin Cancer

The main cause of skin cancer is overexposure to sunlight, especially when it results in sunburn and blistering. Ultraviolet rays from the sun damage DNA in your skin, causing abnormal cells to form. These abnormal cells rapidly divide in a disorganized manner, forming a mass of cancer cells.

Another cause of skin cancer is frequent skin contact with certain chemicals, such as tar and coal.

Many other factors can increase your risk of developing skin cancer. See question, Who is most at risk for skin cancer?

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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

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Where Does Skin Cancer Develop

Skin cancer is most commonly seen in sun-exposed areas of your skin your face , ears, neck, arms, chest, upper back, hands and legs. However, it can also develop in less sun-exposed and more hidden areas of skin, including between your toes, under your fingernails, on the palms of your hands, soles of your feet and in your genital area.

How Can I Prevent Skin Cancer

What you need to know about skin cancer

For all types of skin cancer, the first lines of defense are awareness and prevention. Prevention steps center on avoiding ultraviolet radiation exposure from both sunlight and tanning beds. This means staying out of the sun, especially when the suns rays are strongest, between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. using a broad-spectrum water-resistant sunscreen with SPF of at least 30 and covering exposed skin with protective clothing when outdoors, even on a cloudy day.

Perform a skin self-exam

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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.

Telemedicine Dermatology Services

Should I Use A Skin Cancer Detection App

Anything that reminds you to look for signs of skin cancer is a good thing. However, some smartphone apps claim to be able to assess certain skin changes and inform individuals whether such changes warrant a visit to a dermatologist for further analysis.

Thus far, the accuracy of these is not high enough and relying solely on an app, rather than on your own observations and visits to a doctor, you could put yourself at risk by delaying a visit to the doctor when one is warranted. In one recent study, the most accurate skin cancer detection app missed almost 30% of melanomas, diagnosing them as low-risk lesions.

However, these apps are evolving, and one day they could become part of the arsenal to help detect skin cancer. Smartphones can be useful in terms of telemedicine. For instance, in locations where dermatologists may not be readily available, a local physician can send a photo of a suspicious mole to a dermatologist and based on visual inspection and communication with that physician, determine what steps to take next.

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Tips For Screening Moles For Cancer

Examine your skin on a regular basis. A common location for melanoma in men is on the back, and in women, the lower leg. But check your entire body for moles or suspicious spots once a month. Start at your head and work your way down. Check the “hidden” areas: between fingers and toes, the groin, soles of the feet, the backs of the knees. Check your scalp and neck for moles. Use a handheld mirror or ask a family member to help you look at these areas. Be especially suspicious of a new mole. Take a photo of moles and date it to help you monitor them for change. Pay special attention to moles if you’re a teen, pregnant, or going through menopause, times when your hormones may be surging.

What You Can Do

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

Check yourself: No matter your risk, examine your skin head-to-toe once a month to identify potential skin cancers early. Take note of existing moles or lesions that grow or change. Learn how to check your skin here.

When in doubt, check it out. Because melanoma can be so dangerous once it advances, follow your instincts and visit your doctor if you see a spot that just doesnt seem right.

Keep in mind that while important, monthly self-exams are not enough. See your dermatologist at least once a year for a professional skin exam.

If youve had a melanoma, follow up regularly with your doctor once treatment is complete. Stick to the schedule your doctor recommends so that you will find any recurrence as early as possible.

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Cancer May Spread From Where It Began To Other Parts Of The Body

When cancer spreads to another part of the body, it is called metastasis. Cancer cells break away from where they began and travel through the lymph system or blood.

  • Lymph system. The cancer gets into the lymph system, travels through the lymph vessels, and forms a tumor in another part of the body.
  • Blood. The cancer gets into the blood, travels through the blood vessels, and forms a tumor in another part of the body.

The metastatic tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if skin cancer spreads to the lung, the cancer cells in the lung are actually skin cancer cells. The disease is metastatic skin cancer, not lung cancer.

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