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.
What Happens During A Skin Cancer Full Body Exam
The screening usually takes 10 minutes, or longer if the doctor sees any moles that look unusual. Youll take off all of your clothes and put on a medical exam gown. Your doctor will ask if you have any moles that concern you. Then, they will then look at every inch of your body — from your face, chest, arms, back, and legs to less-visible places like your scalp, between your toes, and the soles of your feet.
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
- Other health problems you have
- Your feelings about the treatment and the side effects that come with it
Read Also: Can Melanoma Be Treated Successfully
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 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.
Don’t Miss: How Fast Does Melanoma Metastasis
If You’re Still Worried
Sometimes you might feel that your GP is not concerned enough about your symptoms. If you think they should be more concerned, print this page and the symptoms page. Ask your GP to talk it through with you. Together you can decide if you should see a specialist.
Northern Ireland Cancer Network, December 2012
Improving outcomes for people with skin tumours including melanoma: Evidence Update October 2011NHS England, October 2011
Basal Cell Carcinoma Squamous Cell Carcinoma Of The Skin And Actinic Keratosis Often Appear As A Change In The Skin
Not all changes in the skin are a sign of basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma of the skin, or actinic keratosis. Check with your doctor if you notice any changes in your skin.
Signs of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin include the following:
- A sore that does not heal.
- Areas of the skin that are:
- Raised, smooth, shiny, and look pearly.
- Firm and look like a scar, and may be white, yellow, or waxy.
- Raised and red or reddish-brown.
- Scaly, bleeding, or crusty.
Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin occur most often in areas of the skin exposed to the sun, such as the nose, ears, lower lip, or top of the hands.
Signs of actinic keratosis include the following:
- A rough, red, pink, or brown, scaly patch on the skin that may be flat or raised.
- Cracking or peeling of the lower lip that is not helped by lip balm or petroleum jelly.
Actinic keratosis occurs most commonly on the face or the top of the hands.
Don’t Miss: How Does Skin Cancer Feel
Different Kinds Of Skin Cancer
There are many types of skin cancer. Some are very rare. Your doctor can tell you more about the type you have.
The two most common kinds of skin cancers are:
- Basal cell cancer, which starts in the lowest layer of the skin
- Squamous cell cancer, which starts in the top layer of the skin
Another kind of skin cancer is called melanoma. These cancers start from the color-making cells of the skin . You can read about melanoma in If You Have Melanoma Skin Cancer.
When Do Signs And Symptoms First Appear
Typically, cancer signs and symptoms first appear when the cancerous tumor or mass has grown large enough that it begins to push against nearby organs and tissue, blood vessels, and nerves.
This can lead to pain, a change in how the nearby organs function, or both. A brain tumor pressing against the optic nerve will affect vision, for example.
Some cancers are fast moving, such as liver and pancreatic cancers. Prostate cancer, however, is usually slow moving. This is why many older men with prostate cancer forego treatment; theyre more likely to die with prostate cancer than because of it.
Screenings for certain cancers should be part of your normal preventive healthcare. These include cancers of the:
Your age, sex, family history, and your own medical history will dictate when routine screenings should begin and how often they should be done.
If youre concerned about symptoms associated with various cancers, then you shouldnt hesitate to see your doctor. You can connect to a physician in your area using the Healthline FindCare tool.
Don’t Miss: What Is Melanoma In The Brain
Should I Be Checked For Skin Cancer
The best way to protect yourself from skin cancer is to use sun protection and have regular skin examinations by a doctor who is trained in using dermoscopy . If you are at high risk of skin cancer , full skin examinations are recommended every 6 months.
Early detection of skin cancer can improve the chances of successful treatment. You should become familiar with your skin, even the skin that is not normally exposed to the sun, and tell a doctor if you notice any change in shape, colour or size of a mole or freckle, or if you develop a new spot.
Warning: Graphic Image Below
If not treated it may eventually cause dramatic disfigurement yet will very rarely metastasize in even the most neglected cases.
Many years of basal cell carcinoma neglect. Apparently this patient didnt know that cancer was eating away at his face.
Squamous cell carcinoma which will likely metastasize if left untreated begins insidiously, appearing first as a faded pink and very flat patchy area on the skin.
A person can go for years without knowing that this usually slow growing skin cancer is progressing.
Many people even in industrialized nations do not check their skin monthly and never get clinical exams and may even be fully aware of a new lesion yet get so used to it that it never dawns on them that its malignant.
There may be the It cant happen to me mindset, along with those who are afraid of what the doctor might find, and those who avoid doctors because they dont have health insurance or because they are cognitively impaired.
Often, people will notice something growing on their face or scalp but chalk it up to older age or benign damage from the sun.
Its possible to have melanoma for several years without knowing it, because some kinds of melanomas grow rather slowly and spread out laterally before they begin burrowing vertically into deeper layers of skin tissue.
Melanoma on the bottom of a foot.
Read Also: What Are The Types Of Skin Cancer
How Does The Doctor Know I Have Skin Cancer
Basal and squamous skin cancer may look like:
- Flat, firm, pale or yellow areas that look a lot like a scar
- Raised reddish patches that might itch
- Rough or scaly red patches, which might crust or bleed
- Small, pink or red, shiny, pearly bumps, which might have blue, brown, or black areas
- Pink growths or lumps with raised edges and a lower center
- Open sores that dont heal, or that heal and then come back
- Wart-like growths
I Have Skin Cancer Now What
I have skin cancer. Well, I HAD skin cancer, but now it is gone. A Mohs surgeon dug a giant hole to remove the skin cancer from the side of my face. As I recover from the surgery, I cannot help but reflect on the scary fact I spent over nine months ignoring Basal Cell Carcinoma on my face.
WARNING: There are graphic photos of skin cancer in this post.
There are certain types of people at high risk for skin cancer and Im one of them. I have light skin that burns easily, lots of freckles, and green eyes. One way to detect skin cancer early is to visit a dermatologist for a skin cancer screening. Unfortunately I skipped last year while my doctor was out on maternity leave even though I had a strange spot on my cheek by my ear.
Recommended Reading: What Does Skin Cancer Look Like On Your Head
A Mole Is Itching Or Bleeding For No Reason
“Another sign is if a mole itches or bleeds for no reason,” Arthur said. “It’s one thing if you catch the mole on your backpack strap and then it bleeds. That is pretty clear-cut trauma and that’s not worrisome. But if a mole just bleeds and you don’t recall injuring the area, or if a mole is persistently itchy, that would always be something to have checked.”
Melanomas can happen on parts of your body that never see the light of day, Garner explained.;
“That is not something I think the public has been made very aware of,” she said.
“Although sun exposure is definitely a risk factor for melanoma, there are also some genetic mutations that can lead to it,” Arthur added. “And so melanoma can occur in the retina, it can occur on the vulva of women, it can occur in the penis in men. You can see it in the peri-anal area. It can occur under a nail or on the bottom of your foot, even.”
The moral of the story: When you perform skin checks, don’t neglect the parts of you that aren’t sun-exposed. Arthur recommends checking your skin once monthly, using a full-length mirror and a hand mirror. Ask a loved one to help you check the parts you can’t see yourself.
Seek Comprehensive Care If Your Skin Cancer Is Complicated To Treat
Complicated skin cancer may require the expertise of multiple specialists. Plastic surgeons may get involved when the cosmetic challenges are significant. An ocular surgeon or an oculoplastic specialist may be needed if you have an especially difficult-to-treat skin cancer close to the eye. A head and neck surgeon may join your care team if there is nerve involvement or if the cancer is too extensive for local anesthesia.;
The beauty of a comprehensive cancer center like MSK is that the expertise is all here, says Dr. Lee. We have a multidisciplinary program especially for people with complex skin cancer. You can usually see all of your doctors on the same day and in the same location. The dermatology team works with you to coordinate your appointments with your schedule.
You May Like: Do You Need Chemo For Melanoma
My Appointment With A Plastic Surgeon
Unfortunately, when they started showing up, I had a really terrible health insurance policy so I was unable to get them treated. Once I got better insurance and had built up some vacation time at work so I could be off for recovery, I made an appointment with my plastic surgeon.
As I was showing him the areas, he commented wryly that I must have been saving them up for him. In all, there were 22 areas he determined needed to be removed. He had a printout of a body map and marked each area for removal on the paper, which he would bring with him the day of surgery.
What Do The Results Mean
If a mole or other mark on your skin looks like it might be a sign of cancer, your provider will probably order another test, called a skin biopsy, to make a diagnosis. A skin biopsy is a procedure that removes a small sample of skin for testing. The skin sample is looked at under a microscope to check for cancer cells. If you are diagnosed with skin cancer, you can begin treatment. Finding and treating cancer early may help prevent the disease from spreading.
Don’t Miss: What Is Soft Tissue Carcinoma
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 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 don’t 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
Recommended Reading: What Are The Early Stages Of Melanoma
How Often Should You Get A Skin Cancer Exam
Experts disagree on this question. Some medical groups say you should only get a screening if you have suspicious moles or you have a high chance of getting melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.
Others recommend a yearly screening for people who are at high risk for skin cancer. A few things make you more likely to get it:
- Blond or red hair, light eye color, and skin that freckles or sunburns easily
- People in your family have had melanoma
- Youve had unusual moles in the past
- Youve had sunburns before, especially any that blistered
- Youve used tanning beds
- You have more than 50 moles or any that look irregular
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.;
You May Like: How To Identify Skin Cancer