How Can I Tell If I Have Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is actually one of the easiest cancers to find. Thats because skin cancer usually begins where you can see it.
You can get skin cancer anywhere on your skin from your scalp to the bottoms of your feet. Even if the area gets little sun, its possible for skin cancer to develop there.
You can also get skin cancer in places that may surprise you. Skin cancer can begin under a toenail or fingernail, on your genitals, inside your mouth, or on a lip.
What To Do If You Notice Skin Changes
If you notice anything unusual on your skin, make an appointment to show it to your GP. It might help to take a photograph of anything unusual, so you can check for any changes. Remember there are many other skin conditions that are not cancer, especially in older people.
It can be more difficult to notice changes if you have darker skin. This is because symptoms of skin cancer may be less obvious than in people with paler skin. If you notice any changes, such as a sore that does not heal, always see your GP.
Macmillan is here to support you. If you would like to talk, you can:
Psoriasis Most Commonly Appears As Red Patches On The Skin
Psoriasis is a skin disease that appears as red, itchy, scaly patches on your skin that go through cycles of flare-ups, according to the Mayo Clinic. These patches are triggered by weather, stress, alcohol, infections, and certain medications, and will most commonly be on your lower back, elbows, knees, legs, soles of your feet, scalp, face, and/or palms. You may also experience other accompanying symptoms like dry, cracked skin that bleeds itching burning soreness thickened, pitted, or ridged nails and swollen or stiff joints.
The National Psoriasis Foundation says that 2 to 3 percent of the global population has psoriasis, including more than 8 million Americans. Unfortunately, as the experts at the Mayo Clinic note, the condition has no cure. And for more to look out for on your body’s surface, If You See This on Your Skin, Your Heart Attack Risk Is Higher, Study Says.
Also Check: Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Survival Rate Stage 4
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that can show up on the skin in many ways. Also known as BCC, this skin cancer tends to grow slowly and can be mistaken for a harmless pimple, scar, or sore.
Common signs and symptoms of basal cell carcinoma
This skin cancer often develops on the head or neck and looks like a shiny, raised, and round growth.
To help you spot BCC before it grows deep into your skin, dermatologists share these 7 warning signs that could be easily missed.
If you find any of the following signs on your skin, see a board-certified dermatologist.
Risk Of Further Melanomas
Most people treated for early melanoma do not have further trouble with the disease. However, when there is a chance that the melanoma may have spread to other parts of your body, you will need regular check-ups.
Your doctor will decide how often you will need check-ups everyone is different. They will become less frequent if you have no further problems.
After treatment for melanoma it is important to limit exposure to the sun’s UV radiation. A combination of sun protection measures should be used during sun protection times .
As biological family members usually share similar traits, your family members may also have an increased risk of developing melanoma and other skin cancers. They can reduce their risk by spending less time in the sun and using a combination of sun protection measures during sun protection times.
It is important to monitor your skin regularly and if you notice any changes in your skin, or enlarged lymph glands near to where you had the cancer, see your specialist as soon as possible.
Read Also: How Do Carcinomas Spread
How To Find A Dermatologist
Here are some resources to help you find a dermatologist near you:
- If you have health insurance, contact your insurance provider and ask for a list of in-network dermatologists. You can also ask a primary care doctor for a referral.
- Use a telemedicine app or service to see a dermatologist quickly over a video appointment. Many dermatologists can virtually examine areas that youre concerned about and provide a diagnosis or next steps.
- Search for dermatologists on sites like Google Maps, Apple Maps, or similar sites to see whats near you, and read reviews to see what other people have experienced
You can also find a dermatologist by visiting the ADAs Find a dermatologist directory.
Some questions you may want to prepare as you choose a dermatologist and get ready for your appointment include:
- Do they specialize in skin cancer treatments, including surgery?
- Does this dermatologist treat people with your skin tone or color? Are they familiar with conditions that are more common in people with your skin tone or color?
- Do they accept your insurance or payment in other forms? Are their services covered as medical procedures, or will they be considered elective procedures that may cost more?
- Do they specialize in the type of care youre looking for? Are they focused on medical treatments or on cosmetic procedures?
Oral Medications For Advanced Bcc
It is rare for skin cancer to reach advanced stages, but when it does, oral medications may help. In addition to chemotherapy, targeted drugs may be used to treat advanced skin cancer. Targeted therapy means that the medication is able to directly target the cancer cells without destroying healthy cells. This can help to reduce side effects from treatment.
Vismodegib and sonidegib are hedgehog pathway inhibitors that work to prevent cancer cells from growing and spreading. The capsules are taken once per day and may be considered after surgery and other treatments. These medications come with several possible side effects and should never be taken during pregnancy since they can affect fetal growth.
Cetuximab is an EGFR inhibitor that can help to stop the spread of cancerous squamous cells. Its possible side effects include skin infections, diarrhea, mouth sores, and loss of appetite.
Also Check: What Happens If I Have Skin Cancer
What To Do If You Notice Skin Irregularities
In addition to regular skin health self-exams at home, you should schedule an annual professional exam with your dermatologist. Even if you consistently visit your dermatologist each year for an annual skin examination, you shouldnt wait for this annual visit to report any irregularities you notice during self-checks. Contact your dermatologist right away if you notice any warning signs of skin cancer. If youre worried about skin cancer or have any other skin health concerns, you can get started working with the U.S. Dermatology Partners team by completing our online scheduling request form. We look forward to hearing from you.
Find a location near me
Risk Factors For Skin Cancer
Everyone is at risk for developing skin cancer, but there are a few risk factors that significantly increase your chances, including:
- Having lighter-colored skin
- Living in sunny climates, especially closer to the equator
- Excessive sun exposure over lifetime
- A history of sunburns
- Numerous moles
Youre also at increased risk for skin cancer if you have a family or personal history of skin cancer, havehad precancerous skin lesions in the past, or received radiation treatment for other skin conditions.
Recommended Reading: Stage 2 Cancer Symptoms
How Is Skin Cancer Treated
Treatment of skin cancer depends on the type and extent of the disease. Treatment is individualized and is determined by the type of skin cancer, its size and location, and the patients preference.
Standard treatments for non-melanoma skin cancer include:
- Mohs surgery : Skin-sparing excision of cancer with complete peripheral and deep margin assessment.
Could A Pimple Be Skin Cancer
There are some situations where skin cancer may resemble a pimple. According to Dr. Wofford, In the early stages, a lot of skin cancer looks like one tiny spot or bump on the skin, and patients ignore it, assuming it will clear up. These lesions may sometimes look similar to pimples, so its important to seek a professional opinion if you ever have a spot that looks like a pimple but isnt clearing up or changes quickly.
Basal cell carcinoma is the type of skin cancer that most commonly may look like a pimple. The visible parts of basal cell carcinoma lesions are often small, red bumps that may bleed or ooze if picked at. This may look similar to a pimple. However, after its popped, a skin cancer will return in the same spot.
Melanoma lesions most often look like dark spots on the skin, but they can also be reddish colored and appear similar to a pimple. However, unlike pimples, melanoma lesions often have multiple different colors within them and are irregularly shaped.
Don’t Miss: Is A Sore That Doesn T Heal Always Cancer
How Common Is Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in the U.S.
Other skin cancer facts:
- Around 20% of Americans develop skin cancer sometime in their life.
- Approximately 9,500 Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer every day.
- Having five or more sunburns in your life doubles your chance of developing melanoma. The good news is that the five-year survival rate is 99% if caught and treated early.
- Non-Hispanic white persons have almost a 30 times higher rate of skin cancer than non-Hispanic Black or Asian/Pacific Islander persons.
- Skin cancer in people with skin of color is often diagnosed in later stages when its more difficult to treat. Some 25% of melanoma cases in African Americans are diagnosed when cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
Are All Moles Cancerous
Most moles are not cancerous. Some moles are present at birth, others develop up to about age 40. Most adults have between 10 and 40 moles.
In rare cases, a mole can turn into melanoma. If you have more than 50 moles, you have an increased chance of developing melanoma.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Your skin is the largest organ in your body. It needs as much attention as any other health concern. What may seem like an innocent cosmetic imperfection, may not be. Performing regular skin self-checks is important for everyone and is especially important if you are a person at increased risk of skin cancer. Skin cancer is also color-blind. If you are a person of color, skin cancer can happen to you. Check your skin every month for any changes in skin spots or any new skin growths. Consider taking skin selfies so you can easily see if spots change over time. If youre a person of color, be sure to check areas more prone to cancer development, such as the palms of your hands, soles of your feet, between your toes, your genital area and under your nails. Takes steps to protect your skin. Always wear sunscreen with SPF of at least 30 every day of the year. Wear UV-A/UV-B protective sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats and long-sleeve shirts and pants. See your dermatologist at least once a year for a professional skin check.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/19/2021.
Also Check: Skin Cancer Spread To Lymph Nodes
Looking For Signs Of Skin Cancer
Non melanoma skin cancers tend to develop most often on skin that’s exposed to the sun.
To spot skin cancers early it helps to know how your skin normally looks. That way, you’ll notice any changes more easily.
To look at areas you cant see easily, you could try using a hand held mirror and reflect your skin onto another mirror. Or you could get your partner or a friend to look. This is very important if you’re regularly outside in the sun for work or leisure.
You can take a photo of anything that doesn’t look quite right. If you can it’s a good idea to put a ruler or tape measure next to the abnormal area when you take the photo. This gives you a more accurate idea about its size and can help you tell if it’s changing. You can then show these pictures to your doctor.
Where Within The Skin Layers Does Skin Cancer Develop
Where skin cancer develops specifically, in which skin cells is tied to the types and names of skin cancers.
Most skin cancers begin in the epidermis, your skins top layer. The epidermis contains three main cell types:
- Squamous cells: These are flat cells in the outer part of the epidermis. They constantly shed as new cells form. The skin cancer that can form in these cells is called squamous cell carcinoma.
- Basal cells: These cells lie beneath the squamous cells. They divide, multiply and eventually get flatter and move up in the epidermis to become new squamous cells, replacing the dead squamous cells that have sloughed off. Skin cancer that begins in basal cells is called basal cell carcinoma.
- Melanocytes: These cells make melanin, the brown pigment that gives skin its color and protects your skin against some of the suns damaging UV rays. Skin cancer that begins in melanocytes is called melanoma.
You May Like: What Are The Causes Of Carcinoma Cancer
How Can I Find Skin Cancer Early
- Talk with your doctor if you see any changes on your skin that do not go away within one month.
- Check the skin on all surfaces of your body, even in your mouth.
- Watch for a new mole or other new growth on your skin.
- Check for changes in the appearance of an old growth on the skin or scar .
- Watch for a patch of skin that is a different color and becomes darker or changes color.
- Watch for a sore that does not heal it may bleed or form a crust.
- Check your nails for a dark band. Check with your doctor if you see changes, such as if the dark band begins to spread.
When skin cancer is found early, it can be treated more easily.
Signs And Symptoms Of Melanoma
The most common sign of melanoma is the appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing mole. This can occur anywhere on the body, but the most commonly affected areas are the back in men and the legs in women. Melanomas are uncommon in areas which are protected from sun exposure, such as the buttocks and the scalp.
In most cases, melanomas have an irregular shape and are more than one colour. The mole may also be larger than normal and can sometimes be itchy or bleed. Look out for a mole which changes progressively in shape, size and/or colour.
You May Like: Survival Rates For Invasive Ductal Carcinoma
The Link Between Psoriasis And Cancer Isn’t Clear Yet But It Could Be Due To Inflammation
While it’s clear there is a link between psoriasis and cancer, researchers are still trying to determine the specific reason. According to , MD, a board-certified dermatologist with expertise in psoriasis, there are a few theories as to why psoriasis may increase someone’s risk of several types of cancer. One of the most prominent is that psoriasis heightens the level of inflammation in your body long term, and chronic inflammation has been linked to cancer.
“The thing to know is that psoriasis is not just a skin disease, it’s a systemic disease that affects the body inside and out,” Mikhail explains. “Also the skin is a marker for the level of inflammationthe more severe the skin disease, the more inflammation is circulating in the body.” And for more concerning health connections, If You Notice This on Your Hands, Get Your Liver Checked, Doctors Say.
What Happens During A Skin Cancer Screening
Skin cancer screenings may be done by yourself, your primary care provider, or a dermatologist. A dermatologist is a doctor who specializes in disorders of the skin.
If you are screening yourself, you will need to do a head-to-toe exam of your skin. The exam should be done in a well-lit room in front of a full-length mirror. You’ll also need a hand mirror to check areas that are hard to see. The exam should include the following steps:
- Stand in front of the mirror and look at your face, neck, and stomach.
- Women should look under their breasts.
- Raise your arms and look at your left and right sides.
- Look at the front and back of your forearms.
- Look at your hands, including between your fingers and under your fingernails.
- Look at the front, back, and sides of your legs.
- Sit down and examine your feet, checking the soles and the spaces between the toes. Also check the nail beds of each toe.
- Check your back, buttocks, and genitals with the hand mirror.
- Part your hair and examine your scalp. Use a comb along with a hand mirror to help you see better. It may also help to use a blow dryer to move your hair as you look.
If you are getting screened by a dermatologist or other health care provider, it may include the follow steps:
The exam should take 10-15 minutes.
Also Check: Merkel Cancer Prognosis
Skin Cancer Can Look Like Many Things Therefore People Can Go Long Periods Of Time Without Recognizing That They Have A Skin Cancer Says Dr Steven Musick Md A Board Certified Dermatologist Who Runs Musick Dermatology Llc In Swansea Il Which Provides State
Not only can skin cancer mimic many benign conditions such as pimples and skin barnacles, but a tumor can develop in areas that are difficult to inspect or that are not considered during a persons self-skin exam.
For example, it would be difficult for one to examine their scalp unless theyre bald. Inside the ears is another hard-to-visualize location.
And then there are areas that people wouldnt think to check, such as between their butt cheeks, inside their belly button, between their toes, the soles of their feet and even the pupils of their eyes.
Yes, melanoma can grow in the pupils and go unnoticed for long periods of time.
Melanoma, along with squamous cell carcinoma, can also pop up internally, including within the genitals, mouth, nose and lungs.
Another factor that influences how long a person can have skin cancer and not know it is where they live.
If they live in a Third, and especially Fourth, World nation, they can have a basal cell carcinoma that goes undiagnosed for many years due to lack of skin cancer awareness campaigns and adequate skin cancer screenings.
However, this type of tumor will continue progressing, though very slowly it wont stop growing just because its untreated.