What Do The Early Stages Of Skin Cancer Look Like
Almost all skin cancers are treatable when diagnosed early. Thus, it is important to recognize the early signs of skin cancer and seek timely medical attention. Signs of skin cancer may appear anywhere on your body depending on the site affected. Skin cancer can be detected quite easily since you can see the changes occurring on your skin. Sometimes skin cancer may arise at relatively concealed places, such as inside your mouth, around your genitals, or under a nail. Thus, you must examine yourself thoroughly, preferably in front of a mirror, to look for any signs that may indicate skin cancer, such as:
- New growth on the skin
- An old mole that appears to be enlarged or a new mole that looks different from others
- A rough or scaly patch on the skin
- A nonhealing ulcer or sore or one that keeps coming back
- A mole or spot that has an irregular shape or appearance
- A skin patch or mole with an uneven color
- A brown or black streak under a nail
- A skin patch that itches or bleeds
- A skin patch or growth that is increasing in size
Stages Of Melanoma Skin Cancer
Staging describes or classifies a cancer based on how much cancer there is in the body and where it is when first diagnosed. This is often called the extent of cancer. Information from tests is used to find out the size of the tumour, which parts of the skin have cancer, whether the cancer has spread from where it first started and where the cancer has spread. Your healthcare team uses the stage to plan treatment and estimate the outcome .
The most common staging system for melanoma skin cancer is the TNM system. For melanoma skin cancer there are 5 stages stage 0 followed by stages 1 to 4. Often the stages 1 to 4 are written as the Roman numerals I, II, III and IV. Generally, the higher the stage number, the more the cancer has spread. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about staging.
When describing the stage, doctors often use the words early stage, locoregional or metastatic.
Early stage means that the cancer is only in where it started and has not spread to other parts of the body. It includes stage 0, stage 1A, stage 1B, stage 2A, stage 2B and stage 2C melanoma skin cancers.
Locoregional means the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, or it has spread to nearby areas of skin or lymph vessels. It includes stage 3 melanoma skin cancer.
Metastatic means that the cancer is in a part of the body farther from where it started. It includes stage 4 melanoma skin cancer.
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How To Perform A Self
1. Examine your face
Especially your nose, lips, mouth and ears front and back. Use one or both mirrors to get a clear view.
2. Inspect your scalp
Thoroughly inspect your scalp, using a blow-dryer and mirror to expose each section to view. Get a friend or family member to help, if you can.
3. Check your hands
Palms and backs, between the fingers and under the fingernails. Continue up the wrists to examine both the front and back of your forearms.
4. Scan your arms
Standing in front of the full-length mirror, begin at the elbows and scan all sides of your upper arms. Dont forget the underarms.
5. Inspect your torso
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What Are The Melanoma Warning Signs
Does your mom or dad have cancer? What about paternal or maternal aunts, uncles, grandparents or your siblings? You shouldnt worry so much about distant cousins or nieces and nephews, but a genetic component should alert you that monitoring your skin for indications of melanoma is important. Early symptoms arent so painful. An uneven and asymmetric freckle or mole on the chest or on the arm may be easy to notice.
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Those on the face may need a mirror. When they are on your scalp or on the back, its harder to tell. Try to check occasionally. If something shows growth, talk to a physician or dermatologist about it. Not just Caucasians are impacted by this cancer. If you are of darker complexions, you can still contract the illness, you just have statistics in your favor. Those who identify as black may be more likely to see vertical lines on the nails. Detecting these early signs can lead to an early diagnosis which creates a more optimistic prognosis and allows for simpler, less intense treatments.
Amelanotic Melanoma: It Doesnt Look Like Other Melanomas
Odds are, if you have spent time on SkinCancer.org, you know the classic ABCDE warning signs of melanoma:;Asymmetry,;Border irregularity,;Color variations,;Diameter over ¼ inch or Dark in color, and;Evolution or change. But did you know that some melanomas have very different features?
For example, certain melanomas may have no color at all. Physicians refer to these as amelanotic melanomas, because they are conspicuously missing melanin, the dark pigment that gives most moles and melanomas their color. These unpigmented melanomas may be pinkish-looking, reddish, purple, normal skin color or essentially clear and colorless.
- An example of a flat, amelanotic, superficial spreading melanoma on the leg.
- A nodular melanoma developing within an amelanotic melanoma in situ on the scalp.
While these melanomas lack pigment, they may have other melanoma warning signs to stay on the lookout for, such as asymmetry and an irregular border. In addition, more and more physicians today stress the importance of the E in the ABCDEs evolution or change. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that you;examine your skin head to toe every month, especially looking for any new mole;or any sign of change in an existing mole. If you spot any change that you consider suspicious, see a skin specialist without delay.
To help you spot unusual melanomas, you can also use early recognition strategies;beyond the ABCDEs, such as the Ugly Duckling sign.
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How Is Melanoma Staged
Melanoma stages are assigned using the TNM system.
The stage of the disease indicates how much the cancer has progressed by taking into account the size of the tumor, whether its spread to lymph nodes, and whether its spread to other parts of the body.
A doctor can identify a possible melanoma during a physical exam and confirm the diagnosis with a biopsy, where the tissue is removed to determine if its cancerous.
But more sophisticated technology, such as PET scans and sentinel lymph node biopsies, are necessary to determine the cancers stage or how far its progressed.
There are five stages of melanoma. The first stage is called stage 0, or melanoma in situ. The last stage is called stage 4. Survival rates decrease with later stages of melanoma.
Its important to note that survival rates for each stage are just estimates. Each person with melanoma is different, and your outlook can vary based on a number of different factors.
How Is Skin Cancer Diagnosed
Many people do not show symptoms of cancer in the skin unless their condition has advanced. However, through regular skin examinations, you can tell whats normal and whats not, so you can seek professional advice once you see any suspicious growth.
When seeking professional help, you can get a total body skin exam from a certified dermatologist. We will review your medical history and ask you about the suspicious growths in your skin. To see your skin structures clearly, we might use a dermatoscope and take photographs of your lesions or abnormal growths. If you have a high risk of skin cancer, regular screening can help you detect the appearance of cancers much sooner.
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.
How Common Is Melanoma
Melanoma accounts for only about 1% of all skin cancers, but causes the great majority of skin cancer-related deaths. Its one of the most common cancers in young people under 30, especially in young women.
Melanoma incidence has dramatically increased over the past 30 years. Its widely accepted that increasing levels of ultraviolet exposure are one of the main reasons for this rapid rise in the number of melanoma cases.
Early Warning Signs Of Melanoma
The key to detecting melanoma early is to know what to look for and where to look for it. This isnt always easy, as melanoma can be a master of disguise. It may look like an age spot, a bruise, a sore, a cyst, a scar or a dark line beneath your nail. You may not feel a melanoma, but there are times that it may itch, hurt or bleed.
The ABCDE method;may help you determine whether an abnormal skin growth may be melanoma:
- A is for asymmetry: Does the mark look different on each half?
- B is for border: Are the edges jagged or irregular?
- C is for color: Is your lesion uneven in color with specks of black, brown and tan?
- D is for diameter: Is your lesion getting larger?
- E is for evolving or elevation: Has your lesion changed in size, shape or texture over the past few weeks or months?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, or even maybe, see a dermatologist for a proper evaluation. The only way to be sure whether a mole;is melanoma is to visit a doctor.
Other melanoma warning signs may include:
- Sores that dont heal
- Pigment, redness or swelling that spreads outside the border of a spot to the surrounding skin
- Itchiness, tenderness or pain
What Is Melanoma Cancer
Melanoma is a serious type of skin cancer. Most melanoma is treated surgically, and in many cases this surgery is curative. Through numerous clinical trials, the surgery that is required to treat melanoma has become less invasive. A number of these less radical procedures were pioneered at the Saint Johns Cancer Institute Melanoma Program.
100,350people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with melanoma in 2020 and the American Cancer Society estimates that number will continue to increase year after year.
What Does Melanoma Look Like
Melanoma is a type of cancer that begins in melanocytes . Below are photos of melanoma that formed on the skin. Melanoma can also start in the eye, the intestines, or other areas of the body with pigmented tissues.
Often the first sign of melanoma is a change in the shape, color, size, or feel of an existing mole. However, melanoma may also appear as a new mole. People should tell their doctor if they notice any changes on the skin. The only way to diagnose melanoma is to remove tissue and check it for cancer cells.
Thinking of “ABCDE” can help you remember what to look for:
- 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 the size of a pea .
- 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 changes or abnormal areas in only one or two of the ABCDE features.
Early Detection Starts With You
When caught and treated early, skin cancers are highly curable. And in the early stages of skin cancer development, youre the one with the best chance to see changes.
Thats why we recommend that you examine your skin head-to-toe every month. Its a simple but powerful way to look at yourself with a new focus that can save your life.
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.;
Less Common Types Of Skin Cancer
This is a rare form of skin cancer that develops in the skins blood vessels and causes red or purple patches. It often attacks people with weakened immune systems, such as individuals with AIDS, or in people taking medications that suppress their immune system, such as patients whove received organ transplants.
Merkel cell carcinoma
Merkel cell carcinoma causes firm, shiny nodules that occur on the surface or just beneath the skin and in hair follicles. Merkel cell carcinoma most often appears on the head, neck and torso.
Sebaceous gland carcinoma
This rare but aggressive cancer develops in the skins oil glands. Sebaceous gland carcinomas which usually appear as hard, painless nodules can develop anywhere, but frequently occur on the eyelid, where they can be mistaken for other eyelid problems.
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.
Most moles, brown spots and growths on the skin are harmless but not always. The ABCDEs and the;Ugly Duckling sign can help you detect melanoma.
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.
Blog: Learn More About Melanoma
- Atypical mole and melanoma syndrome
- If you have AMS, you and your family members should be screened regularly
Not everyone with risk factors gets melanoma. Individuals are encouraged to visit with their primary care doctor or a dermatologist if there is any concern or suspicion about melanoma. Early detection is vital to treating and surviving cancer.
Fair complexion: People with blond or red hair, light skin, blue eyes and a tendency to sunburn are at increased risk.
When Should I Call My Doctor
You should have a skin examination by a doctor if you have any of the following:
- A personal history of skin cancer or atypical moles .
- A family history of skin cancer.
- A history of intense sun exposure as a young person and painful or blistering sunburns.
- New or numerous large moles.
- A mole that changes in size, color or shape.
- Any mole that itches, bleeds or is tender.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Receiving a diagnosis of melanoma can be scary. Watch your skin and moles for any changes and seeing your doctor regularly for skin examinations, especially if youre fair-skinned, will give you the best chances for catching melanoma early when its most treatable.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/21/2021.
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.
What Are The Stages Of Melanoma
Cancerstaging is how doctors describe the extent of cancer in your body. Staging is defined by the characteristics of the original melanomatumor and if/how far it has spread in your body.;
Melanoma is divided into stages using five Roman numerals and up to four letters that indicate a higher risk within each stage. The stage is determined mostly by specific details about the tumor and its growth that are tallied in a system called TNM.;Read more about the TNM system.;
Your stage is important because cancer treatment options and prognoses are determined by stage.