What To Look For
The key to detecting skin cancers is to notice changes in your skin. Look for:
- Large brown spots with darker speckles located anywhere on the body.
- Dark lesions on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, fingertips toes, mouth, nose or genitalia.
- Translucent pearly and dome-shaped growths.
- Existing moles that begin to grow, itch or bleed.
- Brown or black streaks under the nails.
- A sore that repeatedly heals and re-opens.
- Clusters of slow-growing scaly lesions that are pink or red.
The American Academy of Dermatology has developed the following ABCDE guide for assessing whether or not a mole or other lesion may be becoming cancerous.
Asymmetry: Half the mole does not match the other half in size, shape or color.
Border: The edges of moles are irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined.
Color: The mole is not the same color throughout.
Diameter: The mole is usually greater than 6 millimeters when diagnosed, but may also be smaller.
Evolving: A mole or skin lesion that is different from the rest, or changes in size, shape, or color.
If any of these conditions occur, please make an appointment to see one of our dermatologists right away. The doctor may do a biopsy of the mole to determine if it is or isn’t cancerous.
How Serious Is My Cancer
If you have skin cancer, the doctor will want to find out how far it has spread. This is called staging.
Basal and squamous cell skin cancers dont spread as often as some other types of cancer, so the exact stage might not be too important. Still, your doctor might want to find out the stage of your cancer to help decide what type of treatment is best for you.
The stage describes the growth or spread of the cancer through the skin. It also tells if the cancer has spread to other parts of your body that are close by or farther away.
Your cancer can be stage 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4. The lower the number, the less the cancer has spread. A higher number, like stage 4, means a more serious cancer that has spread beyond the skin. Be sure to ask the doctor about the cancer stage and what it means for you.
Other things can also help you and your doctor decide how to treat your cancer, such as:
- Where the cancer is on your body
- How fast the cancer has been growing
- If the cancer is causing symptoms, such as being painful or itchy
- If the cancer is in a place that was already treated with radiation
- If you have a weakened immune system
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How Does The Doctor Know I Have Melanoma
A new spot on your skin or a spot thats changing in size, shape, or color may be a warning sign of melanoma. If you have any of these changes, have your skin checked by a doctor.
The doctor will ask you questions about when the spot on your skin first showed up and if it has changed in size or the way it looks. The rest of your skin will be checked. During the exam your doctor will check the size, shape, color and texture of any skin changes. If signs are pointing to melanoma, more tests will be done.
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Am I At Risk Of Skin Cancer
Everyone is at some risk of developing skin cancer. Your risk increases as you grow older. Most skin cancers are caused by over-exposure to the suns ultraviolet radiation.
Your risk of skin cancer increases if you:
- have someone in your family who has had skin cancer
- have had bad sunburn before
- have fair skin
- have many moles on your skin
- spend a lot of time outdoors without sun protection or work outdoors
- have used solariums or sun lamps
- have a compromised immune system or are taking immunosuppression medication
You can also use this online calculator to work out your likely risk of melanoma.
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.
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What Kind Of Treatment Will I Need
There are many ways to treat melanoma. The main types of treatment are:
Most early stage melanomas can be treated with surgery alone. More advanced cancers need other treatments.
The treatment plan thats best for you will depend on:
- The stage of the cancer
- The results of lab tests on the cancer cells
- The chance that a type of treatment will cure the melanoma or help in some way
- Your age
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Learn More About Stages Of Skin Cancer
All stages of skin cancer can be serious. Delaying treatment can cause unwanted complications, and in some cases, death. Fortunately, treatments with high success rates are now available and can help you restore your confidence, balance, and health. Contact Advanced Skin Canser and Dermatology Center in Wolcott, CT to schedule your consultation today. Well be happy to answer all your questions and recommend the best treatment options!
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Treatment For Skin Cancer
If you are diagnosed with skin cancer, you may have multiple options for treatment. Based on the specifics of your case, your doctor will recommend your best course of action. The suggested methods for fighting the cancer may include:
Cryotherapy. In cryotherapy, a doctor freezes and kills precancerous or cancerous skin cells using liquid nitrogen. This technique is most often used to treat minor basal or squamous carcinomas or precancerous skin conditions.
Surgery. Different types of skin cancer may be removed by surgery. Surgery can be excisional – simply cutting out a cancerous area and the skin surrounding it – or may involve meticulous removal of layers of skin.
Radiation therapy. In radiation therapy, energy beams are used to kill cancerous cells. Radiation therapy may help finish off a cancer that was not fully removed by surgery, and can also be instrumental in cases that dont allow for surgery.
Chemotherapy. This type of therapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. To treat some cases of skin cancer, chemotherapy may be applied locally through topical creams or lotions. It may also be administered by IV to target multiple body parts at once.
Immunotherapy. Immunotherapy, also called biological therapy, involves boosting the immune system to fight cancer cells. With the help of strengthening medicines, the immune system may be better prepared to kill cancerous cells.
What Tests Are Done To Diagnose Melanoma
The first step in diagnosing skin melanoma is usually a biopsy. A tissue sample is taken during a biopsy and sent to a pathologist . The pathologist examines the cells under a microscope and will determine the type of melanoma and the stage.
There are also several noninvasive techniques that can help doctors make a diagnosis. For example, in dermoscopy, doctors use a handheld device to magnify a suspicious area of skin. Doctors can also use highly advanced imaging technologies that can map melanoma in precise detail.
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What Causes Melanoma
Melanoma is caused by skin cells that begin to develop abnormally.
Exposure to ultraviolet light from;the sun is thought to cause most melanomas, but there’s evidence to suggest that some may result from sunbed exposure.
The type of sun exposure that causes melanoma is sudden intense exposure. For example, while on holiday, which leads to;sunburn.
Certain things can increase your chance of developing melanoma, such as having:
- lots of moles or freckles
- pale skin that burns easily
- red or blonde hair
Read more about the causes of melanoma.
Who You Will See
The multidisciplinary team is a team of health professionals who work together to decide on the best way to manage your care. The MDT can include many different health professionals including:
- skin specialists
- doctors who make a diagnosis from tissue specimens
There are two;levels of;multidisciplinary teams -;the Local Hospital Skin Cancer MDT and a Specialist Skin Cancer MDT.
Local Hospital Skin Cancer MDTs are;likely to be in cancer units in district general hospitals. Specialist Skin Cancer MDTs are;usually;in larger hospitals that have cancer centres or plastic surgery centres.
You may only;see;one specialist.;But the team have got together with your test results and case notes to discuss the best treatment.
All of the members of these multidisciplinary teams have specialist training in skin cancer and meet regularly.;
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Melanoma Can Be Tricky
Identifying a potential skin cancer is not easy, and not all melanomas follow the rules. Melanomas come in many forms and may display none of the typical warning signs.
Its also important to note that about 20 to 30 percent of melanomas develop in existing moles, while 70 to 80 percent arise on seemingly normal skin.
Amelanotic melanomas are missing the dark pigment melanin that gives most moles their color. Amelanotic melanomas may be pinkish, reddish, white, the color of your skin or even clear and colorless, making them difficult to recognize.
Acral lentiginous melanoma, the most common form of melanoma found in people of color, often appears in hard-to-spot places, including under the fingernails or toenails, on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet.
The takeaway: Be watchful for any new mole or freckle that arises on your skin, a sore or spot that does not heal, any existing mole that starts;changing; or any spot, mole or lesion that looks unusual.
Acral lentiginous melanoma is the most common melanoma found in people of color.
Red Flag #: Bone Pain Or Fractures
The bones are considered a late-stage site of melanoma metastasestypically, it doesnt spread to the bones until its already spread to another area of the body first. Melanoma can cause pain in the bones where its spread, and some peoplethose with very little body fat covering their bonesmay be able to feel a lump or mass. Metastatic melanoma can also weaken the bones, making them fracture or break very easily. This is most common in the arms, legs, and spine. If you feel any sharp, sudden, or new pains that wont go away, talk to your doctor.
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Basal Cell Skin Cancer
Basal cell cancer can occur anywhere on the body, but it typically develops on areas regularly exposed to the sun. This type of cancer may appear on your face, neck, or other body parts in the form of:
Flat patches of spots, or lesions, which may be red, purple, or brown in color
Slightly raised, brown or reddish lesions
Fully raised, bumpy lesions with a red or brown color
If you think you may be experiencing any of the symptoms of different skin cancers described above, you should call a doctor to discuss your symptoms. You may find that you simply have a large, non-cancerous mole, and can have your concerns put to rest by a professional. On the other hand, your doctor may be able to diagnose your condition and recommend treatment sooner rather than later. Either way, it is best to be on the side of caution and speak with your doctor about what youve noticed.
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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Less Common Skin Cancers
Uncommon types of skin cancer include Kaposi’s sarcoma, mainly seen in people with weakened immune systems; sebaceous gland carcinoma, an aggressive cancer originating in the oil glands in the skin; and Merkel cell carcinoma, which is usually found on sun-exposed areas on the head, neck, arms, and legs but often spreads to other parts of the body.
A Primer On Skin Cancer
Malignant melanoma, especially in the later stages, is serious and treatment is difficult. Early diagnosis and treatment can increase the survival rate. Nonmelanoma skin cancers include basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Both are common and are almost always cured when found early and treated. People who’ve had skin cancer once are at risk for getting it again; they should get a checkup at least once a year.
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Red Flag #: Headaches Or Visual Changes
Just like the liver, not everyone will notice symptoms of melanoma spreading to the brain. But when symptoms do show up, its usually in the form of headaches, problems with eyesight, paralysis on one side of the body, or seizures. If someone simply has a headache, that doesnt mean they have advanced stage melanoma, Dr. Yushak says. But if its a headache thats not going away after a week, and you never have headaches, then thats something that definitely needs to be checked out.
Skin Cancer Pictures: What Does Skin Cancer Look Like
Skin cancer images by skin cancer type. Skin cancer can look different than the photos below.
Basal Cell Carcinoma;|;Squamous Cell Carcinoma;|;Bowens Disease;|;Keratoacanthoma;|;Actinic Keratosis;|;Melanoma
Skin cancer often presents itself as a change in the skins appearance. This could be the appearance of a new mole or other mark on the skin or a change in an existing mole.
Please remember that you should always seek advice from your doctor if you have any concern about your skin. Skin cancers often look different from skin cancer images found online.
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What You Can Do
If youve already had a BCC, you have an increased chance of developing another, especially in the same sun-damaged area or nearby.
A BCC can recur even when it has been carefully removed the first time, because some cancer cells may remain undetectable after surgery and others can form roots that extend beyond whats visible. BCCs on the nose, ears and lips are more likely to recur, usually within the first two years after surgery.
Heres what you can do to detect a recurrence and safeguard yourself against further skin damage that can lead to cancer:
Common Places For Melanoma To Spread
Melanoma can spread from the original site on your skin and form a tumor in any organ or body tissue, but its most likely to metastasize to the lymph nodes, liver, brain, lungs, and less commonly, the bones. Melanoma really likes the brain and the liver, says Lisa Zaba, M.D., dermatologic oncologist at Stanford Medical Center in San Jose, CA. If you notice any of the following red flags, it might mean your melanoma has spread and warrants a call to your doctor right away.
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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.
Leaving Squamous Cell Carcinoma Untreated
The third type of skin cancer we have to be cautious of in Australia is squamous cell carcinoma. This is potentially life threatening and is most dangerous when found on the face, lips, ears or neck. As it grows, there is the chance it may spread to the lymph nodes and internal organs, and while it isnt as fast growing as melanoma, it still requires treatment.
You may notice squamous cell carcinoma in the top layer of your skin and it will likely be red and scaly. Surgery is often used for removal, but if it has progressed significantly some reconstruction to the face may be needed. This is the second most common form of skin cancer, and can be quite painful to touch.
All skin cancer has the potential to be fatal, and regular checks and any necessary treatment is recommended. Melanoma is by far the most serious form of skin cancer, and if suspected you should seek an urgent skin check. Please contact My Skin Centre to book your appointment in the Perth region.
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