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.
Who Gets Skin Cancer And Why
Sun exposure is the biggest cause of skin cancer. But it doesn’t explain skin cancers that develop on skin not ordinarily exposed to sunlight. Exposure to environmental hazards, radiation treatment, and even heredity may play a role. Although anyone can get skin cancer, the risk is greatest for people who have:
- Fair skin or light-colored eyes
- An abundance of large and irregularly-shaped moles
- A family history of skin cancer
- A history of excessive sun exposure or blistering sunburns
- Lived at high altitudes or with year-round sunshine
- Received radiation treatments
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Skin Cancer
The most common warning sign of skin cancer is a change on the skin, typically a new mole, a new skin lesion or a change in an existing mole.
- Basal cell carcinoma may appear as a small, smooth, pearly, or waxy bump on the face, or neck, or as a flat, pink/red- or brown-colored lesion on the trunk, arms or legs.
- Squamous cell carcinoma can appear as a firm, red nodule, or as a rough, scaly, flat lesion that may itch, bleed and become crusty. Both basal cell and squamous cell cancers mainly occur on areas of the skin frequently exposed to the sun, but can occur anywhere.
- Melanoma usually appears as a pigmented patch or bump. It may resemble a normal mole, but usually has a more irregular appearance.
When looking for melanoma, think of the ABCDE rule that tells you the signs to watch for:
- Asymmetry: The shape of one half doesn’t match the other.
- Border: Edges are ragged or blurred.
- Color: Uneven shades of brown, black, tan, red, white or blue.
- Diameter: A significant change in size .
- Evolution: Changes in the way a mole or lesion looks or feels .
How Is Skin Cancer Treated
Treatment of skin cancer depends on the type and extent of the disease. Treatment is individualized and is determined by the type of skin cancer, its size and location, and the patient’s preference.
Standard treatments for non-melanoma skin cancer include:
- Mohs surgery : Skin-sparing excision of cancer with complete peripheral and deep margin assessment.
- Electrodesiccation and curettage: Scraping away the skin cancer cells followed by electrosurgery.
- Drugs .
Standard treatments for melanoma include:
- Wide surgical excision.
- Sentinel lymph node mapping : to determine if the melanoma has spread to local lymph nodes.
- Drugs .
- Radiation therapy.
- New methods in clinical trials are sometimes used to treat skin cancer.
What Is The Treatment For Skin Cancer
Treatment for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma is straightforward. Usually, surgical removal of the lesion is adequate. Malignant melanoma, however, may require several treatment methods, including surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy or immunotherapy or both. Because of the complexity of treatment decisions, people with malignant melanoma may benefit from the combined expertise of the dermatologist, a cancer surgeon, and a medical oncologist.
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The Early Stages Of Skin Cancer
Some forms of cancer, especially melanoma, may appear suddenly and without warning. Most people become alarmed only when they develop a crust or sore that refuses to heal. Did you know that the early stages of cancer do not always look or feel so bad? Harmless-looking moles, skin lesions, or unusual skin growths may also be the signs of early stages.
Regular skin examination can help you spot these early clues. If you see anything suspicious or observe unusual appearances in your skin, we can help you get the right diagnosis and treatment immediately. Some forms of cancer in the skin can be life-threatening and spread without being given urgent attention.
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:
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Health & Wellness7 Skin Cancer Warning Signs To Never Ignore
Ultimately, its not the patients job to biopsy themselves. Its the patients job to see something and say something, Gastman said.
With some of my patients, I call it whack a mole. Theyve had melanoma and I say, look you may get a mole and it may be high risk of turning into melanoma, but well just keep cutting them out. When youre 100 years old, youll tell your great-grandchildren about all the scars you have on your body, but youll never die of your disease.
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How Is It Treated
Your doctor will want to remove all of the cancer. There are several ways to do this. The most common way is to numb your skin so that it does not hurt, then cut out the cancer. You will be awake while this is done.
This surgery almost always cures non-melanoma skin cancer. Other treatments include radiation, medicines that are put on the skin , and .
After your treatment, you will need regular checkups, because having skin cancer once means you are more likely to get it again.
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Prognosis For Skin Cancer
It is not possible for a doctor to predict the exact course of a disease. However, your doctor may give you the likely outcome of the disease. If detected early, most skin cancers are successfully treated.
Most non-melanoma skin cancers do not pose a serious risk to your health but a cancer diagnosis can be a shock. If you want to talk to someone see your doctor. You can also call Cancer Council 13 11 20.
Sean Lock’s Cancer Battle
Comedian Sean Lock tragically died aged 58 following a lengthy battle with cancer.
The star was best known for appearances on panel shows 8 Out Of 10 Cats and 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown.
He was previously diagnosed with skin cancer in 1990 while he worked as a labourer on a building site.
He blamed over-exposure in the sun for his skin cancer, which he was tested for after a woman noticed “something weird” on his back. The star had the mark removed and went on to make a recovery.
His agent confirmed on August 18 the beloved comedian had died from cancer, but did not specify which type of the disease.
For more information visit: cancerresearchuk.org
Exam By A Health Care Professional
Some doctors and other health care professionals do skin exams as part of routine health check-ups.
Having regular skin exams is especially important for people who are at high risk of skin cancer, such as people with a weakened immune system or people with conditions such as basal cell nevus syndrome or xeroderma pigmentosum . Talk to your doctor about how often you should have your skin examined.
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.
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How Are Moles Evaluated
If you find a mole or spot that has any ABCDE’s of melanoma — or one that’s tender, itching, oozing, scaly, doesn’t heal or has redness or swelling beyond the mole — see a doctor. Your doctor may want to remove a tissue sample from the mole and biopsy it. If found to be cancerous, the entire mole and a rim of normal skin around it will be removed and the wound stitched closed. Additional treatment may be needed.
How To Diagnose Skin Cancer
In order to make the diagnosis of skin cancer, your doctor may do any one of the following things:
- Evaluate the skin. The doctor may do a thorough skin evaluation to see if there are any suspicious lesions that might represent skin cancer. If suspicious lesions are found, the doctor may have to do further testing to diagnose the disease.
- Do a tissue biopsy. This is when the doctor excises a part of the skin to look at under the microscope. The suspicious lesion can be removed in its entirety or a portion during a tissue biopsy. The microscopic diagnosis is better than looking just at what does skin cancer look like to the naked eye.
After the diagnosis, you may want to know possible treatments for skin cancer. Then watch the video below.
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How Your Skin Works
Your skin works as a barrier to protect your body against things like water loss, bacteria, and other harmful contaminants. The skin has two basic layers: a deeper, thicker layer and an outer layer . The epidermis contains three main types of cells. The outermost layer is composed of squamous cells, which are constantly shedding and turning over. The deeper layer is called the basal layer and is made of basal cells. Lastly, melanocytes are cells that make melanin, or the pigment that determines your skin color. These cells produce more melanin when you have more sun exposure, causing a tan. This is a protective mechanism by your body, and its actually a signal that you are getting sun damage.
The epidermis is in constant contact with the environment. While it sheds skin cells regularly, it can still sustain damage from the sun, infection, or cuts and scrapes. The skin cells that remain are constantly multiplying to replace the sloughed skin, and they can sometimes begin to replicate or multiply excessively, creating a skin tumor that may either be benign or skin cancer.
Here are some common types of skin masses:
Signs & Symptoms Of Ear Cancer
The symptoms of ear cancer depend on the location of the tumor. Swelling of cervical lymph nodes can be seen in some patients. The most common symptom of cancer in the middle ear is a discharge from the ear that can be stained with blood. Other symptoms of ear cancer include earache and hearing loss. Some patients are not able to move their face on the side where the ear cancer is. Symptoms of cancer in the inner ear include pain, hearing loss, headache, dizziness and tinnitus.
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What Increases Your Risk
- Sunlight, sunlamps, or tanning beds. These expose you to ultraviolet radiation.
- UV radiation affects people of all skin types, but especially those with light skin colour, freckles, blond or red hair, and blue or light-coloured eyes.
- Living where you get high levels of UV radiation. People living closer to the equator get more UV radiation. And people who live at higher altitudes, such as in the mountains, get more UV radiation.
Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas can occur in people with dark skin. But these cancers are much more common in people with light skin.
The risk of squamous cell carcinoma is higher in people who have weakened immune systems. This includes people who have had organ transplants and take medicines to prevent rejection of the new organ.
Treatment For Ear Cancer
Surgery to remove the cancer from the ear is the most common treatment. You may have radiation after surgery as well. How much of the ear is removed depends on the type, size and location of the ear canal tumor. After surgery for inner ear cancer, you may have partial or total hearing loss and struggle with balance.
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How People Of Color Can Reduce Their Skin Cancer Risk
Dermatologists in the United States tell their patients with skin of color to reduce their risk of getting skin cancer by doing the following:
Seek shade whenever possible. The sun causes many skin cancers.
Wear clothing that protects your skin from the sun. A wide-brimmed hat can shade your face and neck. You also want to wear shoes that cover the entire foot. African Americans often develop skin cancer on their feet.
Wear sunscreen. Yes, people of color should wear sunscreen. Dermatologists recommend that people of color use sunscreen that has:
Apply sunscreen to dry skin 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors. You want to apply sunscreen to skin that will be bare. Be sure to apply sunscreen every day even on cloudy days.
When outdoors, reapply sunscreen. You want to reapply:
Never use tanning beds or sunlamps. These emit harmful UV rays, which can cause skin cancer.
Skin of color: How to prevent and detect skin cancer
Although people of color have a lower risk of developing skin cancer than Caucasians, when skin cancer develops in people of color, it is often diagnosed at a more advanced stage making it more difficult to treat.
Follow these tips from dermatologists to protect your skin from the sun and reduce your risk of skin cancer.
Recovery After Eyelid Surgery
Some patients may need to wear an eye patch for a few days. Swelling and bruising are common after surgery around the eyes. I tell all my patients who have surgery near the eye that theyll probably have a black eye afterwards. If they dont, theyll be pleasantly surprised. If the surgery was on the upper eyelid, I warn them that it may swell shut. Sleeping with the head elevated can help. And thanks to gravity, swelling goes away fairly quickly within a few days.
It takes six months to a year for a scar to heal completely, Dr. Ratner explains. Some patients may develop a hypertrophic, or raised, scar, especially on the lower eyelids, because when you blink or raise your eyebrows, the body feels that tension and pulls back. But we have procedures, such as steroid injections, that can flatten out thickened scars if they become uncomfortable or noticeable.
Warning Signs of Skin Cancer on the Eyelids
- A basal cell carcinoma extending toward the margin of the lower eyelid. Early lesions may be subtle, so its important to be alert to changes in the skin around the eyes.
- A subtle pearly lesion in the middle of the lower eyelids lash line is a BCC.
- This crusty spot near the eye was diagnosed as a squamous cell carcinoma .
- This horn-shaped growth on the lower eyelid, known as a cutaneous horn, is an SCC.
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What Skin Cancer Looks Like
Do You Know What Skin Cancer Looks Like?
Properly identifying marks or growths on your skin is one of the best ways to detect cancer early. Most skin cancer are treatable and often can be cured. If you can catch them in their beginning stages, your dermatologist can formally evaluate. Knowing what to look for is the key to addressing the cancer quickly. Skin cancer affects millions of people in the United States, particularly those 65 and older who are fair-skinned.
What does skin cancer look like when it starts?
It takes on a variety of forms. It can be rough and scaly. It can be a raised growth with dark bumps. It can be a flat crusty patch of skin. If you notice a new growth or one that is changing, get it checked by a dermatologist.
Here are some tips for early skin cancer detection:
Atypical black mole photo with uneven border- possibly cancerous
Close up photo of mole to be tested for skin cancer
How Can Uv Cause Skin Cancer
Too much UV radiation from the sun or sunbeds can damage the DNA in our skin cells. DNA tells our cells how to function. If enough DNA damage builds up over time, it can cause cells to start growing out of control, which can lead to skin cancer.
Anyone can develop skin cancer, but some people can have a higher risk, including people who burn more easily.
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