When To See A Doctor About Skin Cancer
Many people, especially those who have fair coloring or have had extensive sun exposure, should periodically check their entire body for suggestive moles and lesions.
Have your primary healthcare professional or a skin specialist check any moles or spots that concern you.
See your healthcare professional to check your skin if you notice any changes in the size, shape, color, or texture of pigmented areas .
If you have skin cancer, your skin specialist or cancer specialist will talk to you about symptoms of metastatic disease that might require care in a hospital.
What Do The Early Stages Of Skin Cancer Look Like
People can have stages of skin cancer and yet not feel ill, which makes early treatment and diagnosis a little challenging. But by being aware of the early stages of this disease, you can protect yourself and seek effective treatment right away. Do you have scaly patches, raised growths, or sores that do not heal? Dr. Jurzyk from Advanced Dermatology Center in Wolcott, CT can help you identify and treat all types of cancer of the skin, keeping you from fatal complications.
What Causes Cancer To Form On Your Scalp
The main cause of all types of skin cancer is sun exposure. Your scalp is one of your body parts exposed most to the sun, especially if you are bald or have thin hair. That means its one of the more common spots for skin cancer.
Other potential causes of skin cancer on your scalp include using a tanning bed and having had radiation treatment on your head or neck area.
The best way to prevent skin cancer on your scalp is to protect your scalp when you go into the sun:
- Wear a hat or other head covering whenever possible.
- Spray sunscreen on your scalp.
Other ways to help prevent skin cancer on your scalp are:
- Avoid using tanning beds.
- Limit your time in the sun.
- Check your scalp regularly to spot any potential cancerous spots early. This can help stop precancerous lesions from turning into cancer or stop skin cancer from spreading. You can use a mirror to look at the back and top of your scalp more thoroughly.
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What Does Melanoma Look Like
Often the first sign of melanoma is a change in the shape, color, size, or feel of an existing mole. Melanoma may also appear as a new colored area on the skin.
The “ABCDE” rule describes the features of early melanoma :
- Asymmetry. The shape of one half does not match the other half.
- Border that is irregular. The edges are often ragged, notched, or blurred in outline. The pigment may spread into the surrounding skin.
- Color that is uneven. Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, gray, red, pink, or blue may also be seen.
- Diameter. There is a change in size, usually an increase. Melanomas can be tiny, but most are larger than 6 millimeters wide .
- Evolving. The mole has changed over the past few weeks or months.
Melanomas can vary greatly in how they look. Many show all of the ABCDE features. However, some may show only one or two of the ABCDE features . Several photos of melanomas are shown here. More photos are on the What Does Melanoma Look Like? page.
In advanced melanoma, the texture of the mole may change. The skin on the surface may break down and look scraped. It may become hard or lumpy. The surface may ooze or bleed. Sometimes the melanoma is itchy, tender, or painful.
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 happen 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 that are protected from sun exposure, such as the buttocks and the scalp.
In most cases, melanomas have an irregular shape and are more than 1 colour.
The mole may also be larger than normal and can sometimes be itchy or bleed.
Look out for a mole that gradually changes shape, size or colour.
Superficial spreading melanoma are the most common type of melanoma in the UK.
They’re more common in people with pale skin and freckles, and much less common in people with darker skin.
They initially tend to grow outwards rather than downwards, so they do not pose a problem.
But if they grow downwards into the deeper layers of skin, they can spread to other parts of the body.
You should see a GP if you have a mole that’s getting bigger, particularly if it has an irregular edge.
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When Melanoma Can’t 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.
Complementary And Alternative Treatments
It’s common for people with cancer to seek out complementary or alternative treatments. When used alongside your conventional cancer treatment, some of these therapies can make you feel better and improve your quality of life. Others may not be so helpful and in some cases may be harmful.;It is important to tell all your healthcare professionals about any complementary medicines you are taking. Never stop taking your conventional treatment without consulting your doctor first.All treatments can have side effects. These days, new treatments are available that can help to make many side effects much less severe than they were in the past.;
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The Five Stages Of Skin Cancer
Cancer in the skin thats at high risk for spreading shares features with basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Some of these features are:
- Not less than 2 mm in thickness
- Has spread into the inner layers of the skin
- Has invaded skin nerves
In the earliest stage, cancer is only present in the upper layer of the skin. You may notice the appearance of blood vessels or a dent in the center of the skin growth. There are no traces of malignant cells beyond this layer.
At stage 1, cancer has not spread to muscles, bone, and other organs. It measures roughly 4/5 of an inch. Theres a possibility that it may have spread into the inner layer of the skin.
In this stage, cancer has become larger than 4/5 of an inch. Cancer still has not spread to muscles, bone, and other organs.
At stage 3, the cancer is still larger than 4/5 of an inch. Facial bones or a nearby lymph node may have been affected, but other organs remain safe. It may also spread to areas below the skin, such as into muscle, bone, and cartilage but not far from the original site.
Cancer can now be of any size and has likely spread into lymph nodes, bones, cartilage, muscle, or other organs. Distant organs such as the brain or lungs may also be affected. In rare cases, this stage might cause death when allowed to grow and become more invasive.
How Can I Help Prevent Sun Damage And Ultimately Skin Cancer
Nothing can completely undo sun damage, although the skin can sometimes repair itself. So, it’s never too late to begin protecting yourself from the sun. Your skin does change with age; for example, you sweat less and your skin can take longer to heal, but you can delay these changes by limiting sun exposure.
Maintaining healthy skin
- Stop smoking: People who smoke tend to have more wrinkles than nonsmokers of the same age, complexion, and history of sun exposure. The reason for this difference is unclear. It may be because smoking interferes with normal blood flow in the skin.
- Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 or greater 30 minutes before sun exposure and then every 2 to 3 hours thereafter. Reapply sooner if you get wet or perspire significantly.
- Select cosmetic products and contact lenses that offer UV protection.
- Wear sunglasses with total UV protection.
- Avoid direct sun exposure as much as possible during peak UV radiation hours between 10 am and 4 pm.
- Perform skin self-exams regularly to become familiar with existing growths and to notice any changes or new growths.
- Relieve dry skin using a humidifier at home, bathing with soap less often , and using a moisturizing lotion.
- Become a good role model and foster skin cancer prevention habits in your child. Eighty percent of a person’s lifetime sun exposure is acquired before age 18.
Understanding UV index
8-10: Very high
11 or higher : Extreme
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Abcde Melanoma Detection Guide
A is for Asymmetry
Look for spots that lack symmetry. That is, if a line was drawn through the middle, the two sides would not match up.
B is for Border;
A spot with a spreading or irregular edge .
C is for Colour;
Blotchy spots with a number of colours such as black, blue, red, white and/or grey.
D is for Diameter
Look for spots that are getting bigger.
E is for Evolving;
Spots that are changing and growing.
These are some changes to look out for when checking your skin for signs of any cancer:
- New moles.
- Moles that increases in size.
- An outline of a mole that becomes notched.
- A spot that changes colour from brown to black or is varied.
- A spot that becomes raised or develops a lump within it.
- The surface of a mole becoming rough, scaly or ulcerated.
- Moles that itch or tingle.
- Moles that bleed or weep.
- Spots that look different from the others.
How Is Melanoma Diagnosed
The only way to diagnose melanoma is to remove tissue and check it for cancer cells. The doctor will remove all or part of the skin that looks abnormal. Usually, this procedure takes only a few minutes and can be done in a doctor’s office, clinic, or hospital. The sample will be sent to a lab and a pathologist will look at the tissue under a microscope to check for melanoma.
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The Warning Signs Of Skin Cancer
Skin cancers — including melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma — often start as changes to your skin. They can be new growths or precancerous lesions — 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 it’s found and treated early.
Normal Mole: Smooth Border
More examples of ordinary moles: a uniformly tan or brown skin discoloration, 1 to 2 mm in diameter, a larger skin discoloration, a mole that is slightly raised above the surface of the skin, a mole that is more clearly raised above the skin, and a pink or flesh-colored mole.
All of these are normal, and even a single mole may go through these stages over time. However, all of them have a smooth border and are clearly separated from the surrounding skin, in contrast to a melanoma tumor.
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What You Need To Know About Early Detection
Finding melanoma at an early stage is crucial; early detection can vastly increase your chances for cure.
Look for anything new,changing or unusual on both sun-exposed and sun-protected areas of the body. Melanomas commonly appear on the legs of women, and the number one place they develop on men is the trunk. Keep in mind, though, that melanomas can arise anywhere on the skin, even in areas where the sun doesnt shine.
Early detection makes a difference
99%5-year survival rate for patients in the U.S. whose melanoma is detected early. The survival rate drops to 66% if the disease reaches the lymph nodes and27% if it spreads to distant organs.
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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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Melanoma
Melanoma is a skin cancer that can show up on the skin in many ways. It can look like a:
Spot that looks like a new mole, freckle, or age spot, but it looks different from the others on your skin
Spot that has a jagged border, more than one color, and is growing
Dome-shaped growth that feels firm and may look like a sore, which may bleed
Dark-brown or black vertical line beneath a fingernail or toenail
Band of darker skin around a fingernail or toenail
Slowly growing patch of thick skin that looks like a scar
This early melanoma could be mistaken for a mole, so its important to look carefully at the spots on your skin.
What Should People Do If They Have A Dysplastic Nevus
Everyone should protect their skin from the sun and stay away from sunlamps and tanning booths, but for people who have dysplastic nevi, it is even more important to protect the skin and avoid getting a suntan or sunburn.
In addition, many doctors recommend that people with dysplastic nevi check their skin once a month . People should tell their doctor if they see any of the following changes in a dysplastic nevus :
- The color changes.
- It gets smaller or bigger.
- It changes in shape, texture, or height.
- The skin on the surface becomes dry or scaly.
- It becomes hard or feels lumpy.
- It starts to itch.
- It bleeds or oozes.
Another thing that people with dysplastic nevi should do is get their skin examined by a doctor . Sometimes people or their doctors take photographs of dysplastic nevi so changes over time are easier to see . For people with many dysplastic nevi, doctors may conduct a skin exam once or twice a year because of the moderately increased chance of melanoma. For people who also have a family history of melanoma, doctors may suggest a more frequent skin exam, such as every 3 to 6 months .
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Squamous Cell Carcinoma Early Stages
The second most common form of cancer in the skin is squamous cell carcinoma. At first, cancer cells appear as flat patches in the skin, often with a rough, scaly, reddish, or brown surface. These abnormal cells slowly grow in sun-exposed areas. Without proper treatment, squamous cell carcinoma can become life-threatening once it has spread and damaged healthy tissue and organs.
Can A Dysplastic Nevus Turn Into Melanoma
Yes, but most dysplastic nevi do not turn into melanoma . Most remain stable over time. Researchers estimate that the chance of melanoma is about ten times greater for someone with more than five dysplastic nevi than for someone who has none, and the more dysplastic nevi a person has, the greater the chance of developing melanoma .
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Get To Know Your Skin
It is also a good idea to talk to your doctor about your level of risk and for advice on early detection.
It’s important to get to know your skin and what is normal for you, so that you notice any changes. Skin cancers rarely hurt and are much more frequently seen than felt.
Develop a regular habit of checking your skin for new spots and changes to existing freckles or moles.
What Is The Prognosis For Skin Cancer
Although the number of skin cancers in the United States continues to rise, more and more skin cancers are being caught earlier, when they are easier to treat. Thus, illness and death rates have decreased.
When treated properly, the cure rate for both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma approaches 95%. The remaining cancers recur at some point after treatment.
- Recurrences of these cancers are almost always local , but they often cause significant tissue destruction.
- Less than 1% of squamous cell carcinomas will eventually spread elsewhere in the body and turn into dangerous cancer.
In most cases, the outcome of malignant melanoma depends on the thickness of the tumor at the time of treatment.
- Thin lesions are almost always cured by simple surgery alone.
- Thicker tumors, which usually have been present for some time but have gone undetected, may spread to other organs. Surgery removes the tumor and any local spread, but it cannot remove distant metastasis. Other therapies, new targeted agents or older approaches such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy, are used to treat the metastatic tumors.
- Malignant melanoma causes more than 75% of deaths from skin cancer.
- Of the approximately 70,000 malignant melanomas diagnosed in the United States in 2007, the vast majority were cured. Still, thousands of people die of melanoma each year.
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