Squamous Cell Skin Cancers
Squamous cell skin cancers can vary in how they look. They usually occur on areas of skin exposed to the sun like the scalp or ear.
Thanks to Dr Charlotte Proby for her permission and the photography.
You should see your doctor if you have:
- a spot or sore that doesnt heal within 4 weeks
- a spot or sore that hurts, is itchy, crusty, scabs over, or bleeds for more than 4 weeks
- areas where the skin has broken down and doesnt heal within 4 weeks, and you cant think of a reason for this change
Your doctor can decide whether you need any tests.
Cancer and its management J Tobias and D HochhauserBlackwell, 2015
Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology VT De Vita, TS Lawrence and SA RosenbergWolters Kluwer, 2018
Symptoms And Early Signs Of Melanoma
So, what are the symptoms to look for? Well, having moles on your skin is perfectly normal, but this normalcy sometimes disguises instances of melanoma. While melanoma doesnt always begin as a mole, this is a common origin point. Normal moles are generally one solid color with a distinct border separating the mole from surrounding skin. Normal moles are ovular or round and are usually smaller than 1/4 inch in diameter. Moles caused by melanoma, though, are usually have one of 5 characteristics that indicate the presence of cancer. To identify them, think of the first 5 letters of the alphabet:
- A for Asymmetrical shape: look for moles with irregular shapes, such as two differently-shaped halves.
- B for irregular Border: look for moles with irregular, notched, or scalloped borders .
- C for changes in Color: pay attention to moles that have many colors or uneven distribution of color.
- D for Diameter: as stated above, common moles are usually no larger than 1/4 inch diameter. A pencil eraser is usually a good benchmark.
- E for Evolving: be aware of moles that change over time, such as a mole that grows in size, changes color, or changes shape. Moles may also develop new symptoms, such as itchiness or bleeding.
Consistently applying sunscreen, even outside of summer months, will help reduce exposure to UV radiationwhich is believed to be the primary cause of melanoma.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Skin Cancer
Often, skin cancers do not cause bothersome symptoms until they have grown quite large. However, it may be possible to see or feel skin cancers in their early stages.
Skin cancer symptoms may differ by skin cancer type:
- Basal Cell CarcinomasThese vary, ranging from flat, firm, pale areas to open sores that either dont heal or keep coming back.
- Squamous Cell CarcinomasThis type of skin cancer may appear as round or scaly red patches that might crust or bleed, or as raised or wart-like growths.
- Melanoma Skin CancersThe 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 warning sign is a spot that looks different from the other spots on the skin.
- Merkel Cell CarcinomasThis type of skin cancer can be found on areas of the skin exposed to the sun, including the face, neck, arms, and legs, but can occur anywhere on the body. It often first appears as a single pink, red, or purple shiny bump that usually doesn’t hurt.
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The Risks The Causes What You Can Do
Skin cancers like melanoma have damaged DNA in skin cells that lead to uncontrolled growth of these cells. Ultraviolet rays from the sun or tanning beds damage DNA in your skin cells. Your immune system repairs some of this damage but not all. Over time, the remaining DNA damage can lead to mutations that cause skin cancer. Many other factors also play a role in increasing the risk for melanoma, including genetics , skin type or color, hair color, freckling and number of moles on the body.
Understanding what causes melanoma and whether youre at high risk of developing the disease can help you prevent it or detect it early when it is easiest to treat and cure.
These factors increase your melanoma risk:
- Unprotected or excessive UV exposure from the sun or indoor tanning.
- Weakened immune system due to a medical condition or medications.
- Many moles: The more moles you have on your body, the higher your risk for melanoma. Also, having large moles , or any atypical moles, increases the risk for melanoma.
- Fair skin: Melanoma occurs more frequently in people with fair skin, light eyes and light or red hair.
- Skin cancer history: People who have already had melanoma or nonmelanoma skin cancers run a greater risk of developing melanoma in the future.
- Genetics: Melanoma can run in families one in every 10 patients has a family member who also has had the disease.
How To Spot The Early Signs Of Skin Cancer
As a healthcare provider, Imperial Dermatology believes it is our responsibility to look out for the best interests of our patients. Because skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, regular screenings are a must, especially if you spend a lot of time in the sun or have a family history of skin cancer. Dr. Simona Bartos offers comprehensive screenings in Hollywood, FL so that individuals can be proactive about their care.
But what causes skin cancer, and what happens during a skin cancer screening? At Imperial Dermatology in Hollywood, FL, our skilled physicians can address your concerns about early signs of skin cancer. If a suspicious lesion or mole is found, we can also guide you through the biopsy process to determine whether further treatment is needed. Learn more about common skin cancer symptoms by contacting a member of our team for a consultation.
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The Different Types Of Skin Cancer: Melanoma Vs Non
The first thing to note when youre looking for early signs of skin cancer is that there is a distinction between melanoma and non-melanoma strains of the disease.
Non-melanoma skin cancers are the most common, and they begin within the deeper layers of your skin, which means that you might not notice any symptoms straight away. Melanoma cancers, on the other hand, are distinctly more dangerous and occur within the upper and middle layers of the skin.
Melanoma cancers are more aggressive because they can often spread to other parts of the body, leading to a more comprehensive disease. Both types of skin cancer can occur anywhere on the body, but they often appear most on areas frequently exposed to the sun.
Melanoma Skin Cancer Symptoms
Melanoma, the more dangerous type of skin cancer, can appear on the skin either in the form of a new spot or a mole that suddenly changes in appearance. While it can be difficult to tell the difference between a cancerous and non-cancerous mole at first glance, normal moles are often small, even in color, and consistent.
Dermatologists can separate cancerous moles from normal blemishes on the skin using a method called the ABCDE test. Learning the ABCDEs can help you to pinpoint the early signs of dangerous tumors.
ABCDE stands for:
- A: Asymmetrical: A standard mole is small and circular while a melanoma lesion looks strange, like a splotch of paint.
- B: Border: Non-cancerous moles have even borders, while melanoma lesions evolve over time, giving them outlines that are hard to define. It might look as though the color of the mole is seeping into your skin.
- C: Color: If the bump on your skin features multiple shades, this could be a warning sign of melanoma. Standard moles are usually all one color.
- D: Diameter: If something doesnt seem right about your mole, you might want to measure it. Lesions caused by melanoma are usually more than 6 millimeters in diameter.
- E: Evolution: A healthy mole doesnt change over time, but a melanoma lesion evolves. Thats why its so important to have regular skin checks with your doctor and perform them yourself at home.
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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.
What Are The Early Warning Signs Of Skin Cancer
The most common early sign of skin cancer is a change in the skin or a lesion such as a beauty spot, freckle or mole. Years of UV-exposure causes sun damage to the skin and with that your skin will change as you grow older. But as aging skin will always change, not all changes are signs of skin cancer.
Read on for the tips on what skin cancer signs to watch out for.
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Distinguishing Benign Moles From Melanoma
To find melanoma early, when it is most treatable, it is important to examine your skin on a regular basis, and become familiar with moles, and other skin conditions, in order to better identify changes. Certain moles are at a higher risk for changing into malignant melanoma. Large moles that are present at birth , and atypical moles , have a greater chance of becoming malignant.
Recognizing changes in your moles, is crucial in detecting malignant melanoma at its earliest stage. The warning signs are:
Normal mole / melanoma
Signs That Your Cancer Has Spread
Skin changes are the most obvious symptom of skin cancer. Other symptoms are subtler and easier to overlook.
Melanoma can spread to other parts of your body, including your bones, liver, and lungs. Your symptoms can give clues to where your cancer has spread.
Symptoms of skin cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes:
- hard bumps under the skin in your neck, armpit, or groin
- trouble swallowing
- swelling of your neck or face
Symptoms of skin cancer that has spread to the lungs:
- shortness of breath
Can Changing My Diet Help Prevent Melanoma
The American Cancer Society advocates eating a plant-based diet over an animal-based diet as part of a healthy plan to avoid all cancers. Growing evidence suggests that plants pack a powerful punch in any fight against cancer because they’re nutritious, cholesterol-free and fiber-rich.
Theres no doubt that a healthy diet can protect your immune system. Having a strong immune system is important to help your body fight disease. Some research has shown that a Mediterranean diet is a healthy choice that may help prevent the development of cancer. Talk to your healthcare provider about the role food plays in lowering your cancer risks.
Some skin and immune-system healthy foods to consider include:
- Daily tea drinking: The polyphenols in tea help strengthen your immune system. Green tea contains more polyphenols than black tea.
- High vegetable consumption: Eating carrots, cruciferous and leafy vegetables is linked to the prevention of cutaneous melanoma.
- Weekly fish intake: Study participants who ate fish weekly seemed to avoid developing the disease when compared to those who did not eat fish weekly.
Connect With Gentlecure To Learn More
We are passionate about helping individuals get informed about skin cancer detection, prevention, and treatment options. If you have additional questions, we encourage you to check out our blog for more helpful tips. If you have been diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer and want to learn more about IG-SRT, give us a call at 312-987-6543 to speak directly with a skin cancer information specialist from our team.
Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer impacts the lives of 4 million Americans each year. GentleCure is committed to raising awareness of IG-SRT and is a trademark owned by SkinCure Oncology, LLC.
The information on this website is provided without any representations or warranties. You should not rely on this website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or healthcare provider. The information on this site, as well as any information provided by the skin cancer information specialists on our educational hotline, is intended to help you make a better-informed treatment decision in conjunction with trained and licensed medical professionals.
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Early Signs Of Skin Cancer To Look Out For
Detecting skin cancer early is the best way to ensure it is treated successfully. But how can skin cancer be detected early? The good thing about skin cancer is that it leaves easily identifiable marks on our bodies long before it becomes a serious problem. During skin cancer screenings your dermatologist will look for these telltale signs. Well help you identify them so that you can be on the lookout when youre at home and, therefore, spot skin cancer early.
There are three common types of skin cancer basal cell carcinoma , squamous cell carcinoma , and melanoma. BCC and SCC are far more common than melanoma and are both non-life threatening. Melanoma, on the other hand, is the more aggressive of the three and typically causes serious complications, including death.
What Will Our Doctor Do
If you have any of the early warning signs of skin cancer, our doctor will do a skin exam. During this exam, they will look at all of your skin to check for moles or other changes. They will also ask you about your medical history and any risk factors you may have for skin cancer.
If our doctor thinks you may have melanoma, they will do a biopsy. This is when they remove a small piece of tissue from the suspicious area and send it to a lab for testing. There are several different types of biopsies, but the most common is a shave biopsy.
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Melanoma On The Scalp
Melanoma that grows on the scalp can be a dangerous form of skin cancer, as its much harder to detect than melanoma that grows on an unobscured area of the skin. Whats more, this type of melanoma grows at a much faster rate since there are many more blood vessels and tissues to aid this process. Therefore, its beneficial to conduct regular scalp skin checkseven more so if you are bald or have thin hair.
Heres how to conduct a scalp skin check:
- Stand in a well-lit room with a handheld mirror.
- Part a section of your hair and use the mirror to examine your scalp.
- Look for moles, blemishes and red patches as you inspect your scalp, as these can be indications of melanoma.
- Continue parting your hair and examining your scalp until you have looked over your entire head.
While its helpful to have a friend or family member to assist you with the scalp skin check, this is something you can do on your own. If you see anything suspicious, make note of it and report it to your dermatologist right away.
Are You At Risk For Melanoma
Anyone can develop melanoma. Its a common cancer and it can begin in anyones skin. But for some individuals, melanoma may be more of a risk.
Certain factors can increase your risk of developing melanoma. These factors, some of which can be controlled and some of which cannot, can affect your skin and its cells. And if you have any of these risk factors, you may want to be more cautious and more vigilant about monitoring your skin.
According to the Mayo Clinic, these risk factors may increase your odds of developing melanoma:
- Having fair skin .
- A history of sunburns, specifically at least one severe and blistering sunburn.
- Excessive exposure to UV light, either via sunlight or tanning lights and beds.
- Living close to the equator.
- Living at a higher elevation.
- Having a high number of moles on your body .
- A number of unusual moles, or moles that are larger and more irregular than ordinary moles.
- Having a family history of melanoma.
- Living with a weakened immune system.
These risk factors dont mean that you are guaranteed to develop melanoma. Instead, they should be reminders to be cautious and careful. If your risk of melanoma is higher, youll want to limit your UV light exposure and keep a close eye on your skin and any potential changes. You can also discuss your risk with your doctor, who may be able to offer more specific advice about your risk level.
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Skin Cancer Of The Head And Neck Treatment
Many early-stage small basal cell cancers or squamous cell cancers can be removed by Mohs surgery, a technique that spares normal tissue through repeated intraoperative margin testing, removing only the cancer and leaving adjacent normal tissue. Tumors with nerve involvement, lymph node involvement or of a large size are not suitable for Mohs surgery. They require a multimodality approach to treatment, with formal surgical resection and adjuvant radiation or chemotherapy.
Melanoma is more likely to spread, and aggressive surgical resection with wide margins is required, in addition to radiation and/or chemotherapy.
Johns Hopkins Head and Neck Cancer Surgery
Johns Hopkins Head and Neck Cancer Surgery provides comprehensive surgical care and treatment for head and neck cancers. Our surgeons are at the leading edge of head and neck cancer treatment. You will benefit from the skilled care of head and neck surgeons, guiding clinical advancements in the field of head and neck cancer care.