Can Skin Cancers Cause Itching
Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the most commonly diagnosed types of skin cancer and are treatable. BCC and SCC can cause itching in about 40% of people. Itching in these cases is typically mild and goes away once the cancer is removed. Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, rarely causes itching.
If you notice a new mole or changes in an existing mole and want a skin cancer screening, visit our experienced dermatologists at the Skin Center of South Miami. Were experts regarding skin exams and early cancer detection. We deliver personalized dermatology care for every person in every case. Call us at 305-740-6181 orfill out the form on this page to schedule a consultation today.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma Signs And Symptoms
Generally found on the ears, face and mouth, squamous cell carcinoma can be more aggressive than basal cell. Untreated, it may push through the skin layers to the lymphatic system, bloodstream and nerve routes, where it can cause pain and symptoms of serious illness.
Squamous cell cancer often starts as a precancerous lesion known as actinic keratosis . When it becomes cancerous, the lesion appears raised above the normal skin surface and is firmer to the touch. Sometimes the spot shows only a slight change from normal skin.
Other signs include:
- Any change, such as crusting or bleeding, in an existing wart, mole, scar or other skin lesion
- A wart-like growth that crusts and sometimes bleeds
- A scaly, persistent reddish patch with irregular borders, which may crust or bleed
- A persistent open sore that does not heal and bleeds, crusts or oozes
- A raised growth with a depression in the center that occasionally bleeds and may rapidly increase in size
How Common Are Painful Skin Cancer Lesions
A study completed at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in 2010 and 2011, found that of 268 patients who had confirmed skin cancer lesions, more than 1/3 reported itchiness and approximately 30 percent reported them as being painful.
Painful lesions were also found to be more likely in non-melanoma skin cancer lesions than in melanoma lesions. Pain prevalence was reported as greatest in squamous cell carcinoma at 42.5%, with pain prevalence in basal cell carcinoma at 19.9% and only 3.7% in melanoma.
So while these numbers may not represent the majority of lesions, they nevertheless show that there is a significant chance that skin cancer lesions will be painful.
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Symptoms If Cancer Has Spread To The Brain
You might have any of the following symptoms if your cancer has spread to your brain:
- weakness of a part of the body
- personality changes or mood changes
- eyesight changes
J Tobias and D HochhauserJohn Wiley and Sons Ltd
TNM Staging ChartsLippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2009
Improving supportive and palliative care for adults with cancerNational Institute for Clinical Excellence , 2004
Oxford Textbook of Palliative MedicineEds D Doyle and othersOxford Universty Press, 3rd edition 2005
Cancer and its Management J Tobias and D HochhauserWiley Blackwell, 2015
Melanomas That Could Be Mistaken For A Common Skin Problem
Melanoma that looks like a bruise
Melanoma can develop anywhere on the skin, including the bottom of the foot, where it can look like a bruise as shown here.
Melanoma that looks like a cyst
This reddish nodule looks a lot like a cyst, but testing proved that it was a melanoma.
In people of African descent, melanoma tends to develop on the palm, bottom of the foot, or under or around a nail.
Did you spot the asymmetry, uneven border, varied color, and diameter larger than that of a pencil eraser?
Dark line beneath a nail
Melanoma can develop under a fingernail or toenail, looking like a brown line as shown here.
While this line is thin, some are much thicker. The lines can also be much darker.
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Identify An Ugly Duckling
Just because a mole is, well, ugly, doesnt mean its cancerous. However, most normal moles on the body look alike. Any mole that sticks out among the others on your body in any way, is an Ugly Duckling and should be examined further, says Dr. McNeill. Perhaps the offender is bigger than the rest. Maybe its darker than your other moles. Or perhaps its the sole raised mark. No matter what, if its different, have a dermatologist check it out.
Basal Cell Carcinoma Signs And Symptoms
This type of cancer is usually found on sun-exposed areas of the skin like the scalp, forehead, face, nose, neck and back.
Basal cell carcinomas may bleed after a minor injury but then scab and heal. This can happen over and over for months or years with no visible growth, making it easy to mistake them for wounds or sores. They rarely cause pain in their earliest stages.
In addition to the bleeding and healing, these are other possible signs of a basal cell cancer:
- A persistent open sore that does not heal and bleeds, crusts or oozes.
- A reddish patch or irritated area that may crust or itch.
- A shiny bump or nodule that is pearly or translucent and often pink, red or white. It can also be tan, black or brown, especially in dark-haired people, and easy to confuse with a mole.
- A pink growth with a slightly elevated, rolled border and a crusted indentation in the center. Tiny blood vessels may appear on the surface as the growth enlarges.
- A scar-like lesion in an area that you have not injured. It may be white, yellow or waxy, often with poorly defined borders. The skin seems shiny and tight sometimes this can be a sign of an aggressive tumor.
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In Rare Cases Melanoma
Even though a painful mole can have a non-cancerous cause, some are accompanied by pain and soreness.
Melanoma is a very rare form of skin cancer, but also the most dangerous form.
Check for these changes
See a doctor for mole pain that doesnt go away after a few days or a week. A skin check is especially important when an acquired or atypical mole changes shape, size, color, or becomes painful.
Its rare, but an acquired mole can change into melanoma. Three types of acquired moles include:
- Located on the face, arms, legs, and trunk, these moles appear as flat freckles or light spots on the skin. They can become raised in adulthood, and sometimes disappear with age.
- Intradermal nevi. These are flesh-colored, dome-shaped lesions that form on the skin.
- Compound nevi. These raised atypical moles feature a uniform pigmentation.
You should also see a doctor for any including moles to rule out skin cancer.
A painful mole with non-cancerous causes will likely heal on its own, and you probably dont need a doctor. Self-care measures alone can stop pain and irritation.
Diagnosis Of Metastatic Melanoma
During a physical exam, a doctor will examine the suspicious mole or area of the skin for signs of melanoma, and will ask about possible risk factors.
The physician may also feel the lymph nodes under the skin in the neck, underarm, or groin near the abnormal area to check for any unusual enlargement.
The doctor will also likely take a skin sample that can be studied under a microscope for cancer cells.
If the lab results confirm melanoma, physicians may take samples of other tissues, too, to check for metastases, often starting with the lymph nodes nearest the skin tumor.
Imaging tests, such as X-rays or computerized tomography , magnetic resonance imaging , or positron emission tomography scans, can also look for enlarged lymph nodes or cancerous spots on the lungs, liver, and other body parts.
In rare cases, melanoma metastasizes quickly, before the original tumor on the skin is large enough to be detected. In these cases, physicians may biopsy tissue from an area of metastasis to figure out what type of cancer the patient has.
For instance, a biopsy may determine that cancerous spots on the liver are not liver cancer but skin melanoma that has metastasized.
This is critical information, since different types of cancer require different treatment.
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Causes And Risk Factors For Metastatic Melanoma
Everyone of every age, sex, race, and ethnicity faces some level of risk when it comes to melanoma, including the metastatic kind, but certain factors raise the odds. These include:
Ultraviolet Light Exposure Whether it comes from the sun or from tanning beds, UV light is a very significant risk factor for melanoma. UV light damages the genes in melanocytes that control their growth. These genetic mutations direct the cells to multiply with abnormal speed, forming tumors. Blistering sunburns in early childhood are especially dangerous.
Moles Certain kinds of atypical moles known as dysplastic nevi, which can be larger than regular moles and an abnormal shape or color, raise melanoma risk. People with an inherited condition called dysplastic nevus syndrome, which causes them to have many dysplastic nevi, are at very high risk. Congenital melanocytic nevi moles present at birth, especially very large ones are another risk factor.
Fair Skin, Freckling, and Light Hair Caucasians with this kind of coloring are at higher risk than other racial groups.
Family History of Melanoma Around 10 percent of people with melanoma have a first-degree family member with the disease, such as a parent, sibling, or children.
Personal History of Melanoma or Other Skin Cancers Having had melanoma raises the risk of getting it again. Having another type of skin cancer, such as basal or squamous cell skin cancer, is also a risk factor.
What Are The Symptoms Of Skin Cancer
If you are in a high-risk group for skin cancer or have ever been treated for some form of the disease, you should familiarize yourself with how skin cancers look. Examine your skin from head to toe every few months, using a full-length mirror and hand mirror to check your mouth, nose, scalp, palms, soles, backs of ears, genital area, and between the buttocks. Cover every inch of skin and pay special attention to moles and sites of previous skin cancer. If you find a suspicious growth, have it examined by your dermatologist.
The general warning signs of skin cancer include:
- Any change in size, color, shape, or texture of a mole or other skin growth
- An open or inflamed skin wound that won’t heal
Melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer, may appear as:
- A change in an existing mole
- A small, dark, multicolored spot with irregular borders — either elevated or flat — that may bleed and form a scab
- A cluster of shiny, firm, dark bumps
- A mole larger than a pencil eraser
An easy way to remember the signs of melanoma is the ABCDEs of melanoma: Asymmetry, irregular Borders, changes in Color, Diameter larger than a pencil eraser, Evolution of a mole’s characteristics, be it size, shape, color, elevation, bleeding, itching, or crusting.
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Design Setting And Participants
This large, prospective, clinicopathologic study enrolled patients who filled out questionnaires that assessed itch and pain intensity of their skin tumors at the time of excision. Study participants were from the patient population presenting to the Department of Dermatology surgical unit at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center from July 1, 2010, through March 31, 2011. Study participants included 268 patients, representing 339 histopathologically confirmed cutaneous neoplasms. The following skin cancer subtypes were represented in this analysis: 166 basal cell carcinomas, 146 squamous cell carcinomas, and 27 melanomas.
Melanoma Signs And Symptoms
Melanoma skin cancer is much more serious than basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. It can spread quickly to other organs and causes the vast majority of skin cancer deaths in the United States. Usually melanomas develop in or around an existing mole.
Signs and symptoms of melanoma vary depending on the exact type and may include:
- A flat or slightly raised, discolored patch with irregular borders and possible areas of tan, brown, black, red, blue or white
- A firm bump, often black but occasionally blue, gray, white, brown, tan, red or your usual skin tone
- A flat or slightly raised mottled tan, brown or dark brown discoloration
- A black or brown discoloration, usually under the nails, on the palms or on the soles of the feet
See more pictures and get details about different types of melanoma in our dedicated melanoma section.
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Possible Signs And Symptoms Of Melanoma
The most important warning sign of melanoma is a new spot on the skin or a spot that is changing in size, shape, or color.
Another important sign is a spot that looks different from all of the other spots on your skin .
If you have one of these warning signs, have your skin checked by a doctor.
The ABCDE rule is another guide to the usual signs of melanoma. Be on the lookout and tell your doctor about spots that have any of the following features:
- A is for Asymmetry: One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
- B is for Border:The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
- C is for Color:The color is not the same all over and may include different shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
- D is for Diameter:The spot is larger than 6 millimeters across , although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this.
- E is for Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape, or color.
Some melanomas dont fit these rules. Its important to tell your doctor about any changes or new spots on the skin, or growths that look different from the rest of your moles.
Other warning signs are:
- A sore that doesnt heal
- Spread of pigment from the border of a spot into surrounding skin
- Redness or a new swelling beyond the border of the mole
- Change in sensation, such as itchiness, tenderness, or pain
- Change in the surface of a mole scaliness, oozing, bleeding, or the appearance of a lump or bump
How To Examine Your Skin For Signs Of Skin Cancer
- First, you must make sure that you check your entire body and not only the sun-exposed regions for signs of skin cancer. This includes the soles of the feet, in-between the fingers and toes, and also under the nails.
- Ensure that you examine your skin under good lighting
- Check all your skin surfaces, and you may also get assistance from your partner, family member or friend to examine your skin for any abnormal spots or bumps.
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How Often Should I Have My Skin Checked By A Doctor
An annual skin screening from a board-certified dermatologist is important, especially if you have a large number of moles, other risk factors for skin cancer or live in a place where the sun shines year round . Annual skin screenings may identify skin cancer early, when its more easily treated. If you have a history of melanoma, your dermatologist may want to see you more than once a year.
Between professional skin screenings, its a good idea to periodically check your skin for any new signs of skin cancer. The American Cancer Society shows you how to perform a skin self-exam.
How Do People Find Signs Of Melanoma On Their Own Skin
Performing a skin self-exam as often as recommended by your dermatologist is the best way. While examining your skin, you want to look for the following:
Mole that is changing in any way
Spot that looks different from the rest of the spots on your skin
Growth or spot on your skin that itches, bleeds, or is painful
Band of color beneath or around a nail
Sore that doesnt heal or heals and returns
The ABCDEs of melanoma can help you find changes to a mole, freckle, or other spot on your skin.
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Itching Due To Cancer Treatments
There are many cancer treatments that can lead to itching. The most common include some targeted therapies and some immunotherapy drugs, especially interferon and interleukin-2. Many medications can also cause allergic reactions or inflammation of the liver, which in turn, can lead to itching.
Radiation therapy commonly causes itching, especially later on in treatment when the skin begins to heal.
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.
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When To Contact A Doctor
Early detection of melanoma increases the number of treatment options available and the likelihood of recovery. If a person notices any new or unusual marks on their skin, it is important for them to contact a doctor.
Performing regular self-checks and knowing which symptoms to look out for can help them detect skin cancer early.
Use the ABCDE rules as a guide, but remember that some marks may not match these descriptions.