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What Happens When You Get Skin Cancer

Skin Exam And Physical

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If youve been diagnosed with melanoma, youve already had a skin biopsy. This biopsy was taken when you had part of the suspicious spot removed. After it was removed, a doctor looked at the spot under a microscope to find out if it contained cancer cells. This is currently the only way to tell if someone has skin cancer.

After getting the diagnosis, the next step is to get a complete skin exam and physical.

During the physical, your dermatologist will feel your lymph nodes. This is where melanoma usually goes when it begins to spread. It usually travels to the lymph nodes closest to the melanoma.

If there is a risk the cancer could have spread, your dermatologist may recommend that you have a lymph node biopsy. If a sentinel lymph node biopsy is recommended, it can be performed at the time of your surgery for melanoma.

After the skin exam and physical, your dermatologist may recommend testing, such as a CAT scan, MRI, or a blood test. These can also help detect spread.

How Can You Help Prevent Skin Cancer

One of the simplest ways to protect yourself from skin cancer is to limit your exposure to harmful light. The AAD advises that you stay away from tanning beds and take necessary measures to protect yourself from sunlight.

Routine check-ups and self-awareness also play a significant role in prevention and detection. Try to look out for warning signs such as changes in size, shape, or color of a mole, the appearance of a new growth, or a sore that will not heal.

If you notice any of the above, be sure to visit a board-certified dermatologist to determine if there has been any development of cancer.

If cancer is found, it can often be treated with Mohs surgery. Mohs surgery is a procedure that removes layers of cancerous skin in stages to prevent the unnecessary removal of healthy tissue. In some cases, skin grafts are used to restore the appearance of the skin.

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How Is Skin Cancer Diagnosed In A Child

The healthcare provider will examine your child’s skin. Tell the healthcare provider:

  • When you first noticed the skin problem

  • If it oozes fluid or bleeds, or gets crusty

  • If its changed in size, color, or shape

  • If your child has pain or itching

Tell the healthcare provider if your child has had skin cancer in the past, and if other your family members have had skin cancer.

Your child’s healthcare provider will likely take a small piece of tissue from a mole or other skin mark that may look like cancer. The tissue is sent to a lab. A doctor called a pathologist looks at the tissue under a microscope. He or she may do other tests to see if cancer cells are in the sample. The biopsy results will likely be ready in a few days or a week. Your child’s healthcare provider will tell you the results. He or she will talk with you about other tests that may be needed if cancer is found.

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Prognosis For Melanoma On The Nail

Like other forms of melanoma, subungual melanoma can metastasize to other parts of the body if left untreated.3,4 Because it can be difficult to see and is often mistaken for a bruise or other nail problem, this condition often goes undetected. However, checking your nails and showing any changes to your healthcare provider can help reduce your chances of an undetected subungual melanoma.

The Ugly Duckling Method

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The ugly duckling method works on the premise that a personâs moles tend to resemble one another. If one mole stands out in any way, it may indicate skin cancer.

Of course, not all moles and growths are cancerous. However, if a person notices any of the above characteristics, they should speak with a doctor.

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What Happens When Skin Cancer Goes Untreated

If you notice an abnormality on your skin you may be tempted to ignore it. However, if it is skin cancer you could be putting your health at risk by waiting to get a skin and mole check. There are three main types of skin cancer in Australia with melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, and they each have their own set of unique characteristics. The most important thing to remember is that if you delay treatment of skin cancer it could have life threatening consequences:

What Causes Cancer To Form On Your Scalp

The main cause of all types of skin cancer is sun exposure. Your scalp is one of your body parts exposed most to the sun, especially if you are bald or have thin hair. That means its one of the more common spots for skin cancer.

Other potential causes of skin cancer on your scalp include using a tanning bed and having had radiation treatment on your head or neck area.

The best way to prevent skin cancer on your scalp is to protect your scalp when you go into the sun:

  • Wear a hat or other head covering whenever possible.
  • Spray sunscreen on your scalp.

Other ways to help prevent skin cancer on your scalp are:

  • Avoid using tanning beds.
  • Limit your time in the sun.
  • Check your scalp regularly to spot any potential cancerous spots early. This can help stop precancerous lesions from turning into cancer or stop skin cancer from spreading. You can use a mirror to look at the back and top of your scalp more thoroughly.

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Is Mohs Surgery Right For You

Not all skin cancers need to be treated with a Mohs surgery.

Skin cancers are most common on the head and neck and often treated with Mohs, but those on the trunk and extremities are only treated with Mohs surgery under certain circumstances that your surgeon can determine, Dr. Knackstedt says.

Another kind of skin cancer called melanoma isnt usually treated with Mohs surgery because it is biologically different from basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, Dr. Knackstedt says.

Mohs surgery, though, is the single most effective technique for completely removing the most common kinds of skin cancer. Because the surgery can be accomplished relatively quickly with instant feedback on the success of removing the cancerous cells, the procedure brings many patients peace of mind Dr. Knackstedt says.

Its a really fabulous way of getting the cancer out and the patient knowing its out, he says.

Diagnosis Of Skin Cancer

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It is important to check your skin regularly and check with your doctor if you notice any changes.

In the majority of cases, your GP will examine you, paying attention to any spots that may look suspicious. Your GP may perform a biopsy . In some cases your GP may refer you to a specialist, such as a dermatologist, if necessary.

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What About Other Treatments That I Hear About

When you have cancer you might hear about other ways to treat the cancer or treat your symptoms. These may not always be standard medical treatments. These treatments may be vitamins, herbs, special diets, and other things. You may wonder about these treatments.

Some of these are known to help, but many have not been tested. Some have been shown not to help. A few have even been found to be harmful. Talk to your doctor about anything youre thinking about using, whether its a vitamin, a diet, or anything else.

What Happens During A Skin Cancer Screening

Skin cancer screenings may be done by yourself, your primary care provider, or a dermatologist. A dermatologist is a doctor who specializes in disorders of the skin.

If you are screening yourself, you will need to do a head-to-toe exam of your skin. The exam should be done in a well-lit room in front of a full-length mirror. Youâll also need a hand mirror to check areas that are hard to see. The exam should include the following steps:

  • Stand in front of the mirror and look at your face, neck, and stomach.
  • Women should look under their breasts.
  • Raise your arms and look at your left and right sides.
  • Look at the front and back of your forearms.
  • Look at your hands, including between your fingers and under your fingernails.
  • Look at the front, back, and sides of your legs.
  • Sit down and examine your feet, checking the soles and the spaces between the toes. Also check the nail beds of each toe.
  • Check your back, buttocks, and genitals with the hand mirror.
  • Part your hair and examine your scalp. Use a comb along with a hand mirror to help you see better. It may also help to use a blow dryer to move your hair as you look.

If you are getting screened by a dermatologist or other health care provider, it may include the follow steps:

The exam should take 10-15 minutes.

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How Is Cancer On The Scalp Treated

Potential treatments for skin cancer on your scalp include:

  • Surgery. Your doctor will remove the cancerous growth and some of the skin around it, to make sure that they removed all the cancer cells. This is usually the first treatment for melanoma. After surgery, you may also need reconstructive surgery, such as a skin graft.
  • Mohs surgery. This type of surgery is used for large, recurring, or hard-to-treat skin cancer. Its used to save as much skin as possible. In Mohs surgery, your doctor will remove the growth layer by layer, examining each one under a microscope, until there are no cancer cells left.
  • Radiation. This may be used as a first treatment or after surgery, to kill remaining cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy. If your skin cancer is only on the top layer of skin, you might be able to use a chemotherapy lotion to treat it. If your cancer has spread, you might need traditional chemotherapy.
  • Freezing. Used for cancer that doesnt go deep into your skin.
  • . Youll take medications that will make cancer cells sensitive to light. Then your doctor will use lasers to kill the cells.

The outlook for skin cancer on your scalp depends on the specific type of skin cancer:

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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.

Risks Associated With Untreated Melanoma

Melanoma makes up a very small percentage of overall skin cancer cases. However, melanoma is responsible for over half the annual deaths attributed to skin cancer. Dr. Truong says, Melanomas are an aggressive and quickly evolving form of cancer. Its the most likely to grow quickly and metastasize. A treatment plan should be formulated as soon as possible. When caught and treated early, melanoma has a high cure rate, but when treated in later stages, cure rates drop drastically, especially if the cancer has metastasized.

Within six weeks of initial development, melanoma can become life-threatening, therefore, early treatment is extremely important. In order to access treatment in the earliest stages, patients need to know what to look for. Melanoma develops from the melanocytes, cells that create the skins pigment. For this reason, patients will need to carefully note any existing or new moles, freckles, or dark spots on the skin, assessing the area for the ABCDEs: Asymmetry, uneven Border, inconsistent or unusual Color, Diameter greater than the size of a pencil eraser, and any areas that are Evolving or changing.

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Screening For Skin Cancer

Again, the best way to screen for skin cancer is knowing your own skin. If you are familiar with the freckles, moles, and other blemishes on your body, you are more likely to notice quickly if something seems unusual.

To help spot potentially dangerous abnormalities, doctors recommend doing regular self-exams of your skin at home. Ideally, these self-exams should happen once a month, and should involve an examination of all parts of your body. Use a hand-held mirror and ask friends or family for help so as to check your back, scalp, and other hard-to-see areas of skin. If you or someone else notices a change on your skin, set up a doctors appointment to get a professional opinion.

How Can I Protect Myself From Skin Cancer

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Have your doctor check your skin if you are concerned about a change.Your doctor may take a sample of your skin to check for cancer cells.

Ask your doctor about your risk of skin cancer:

  • Some skin conditions and certain medicines may make your skin more sensitive to damage from the sun.
  • Medicines or medical conditions that suppress the immune system may make you more likely to develop skin cancer.
  • Having scars or skin ulcers increases your risk.
  • Exposure to a high level of arsenic increases your risk.

Stay out of the sun as much as you can. Whenever possible, avoid exposure to the sun from10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you work or play outside, then

  • Try to wear long sleeves, long pants, and a hat that shades your face, ears, and neck with a brim all around.
  • Use sunscreen with a label that says it is broad spectrum or is at least SPF 15 and can filter both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Wear sunglasses that filter UV to protect your eyes and the skin around your eyes.
  • If you are concerned about having a low level of vitamin D from not being in the sun, talk with your doctor about supplements.

Don’t use tanning beds, tanning booths, or sunlamps.

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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 .

Skin Sore That Heals And Returns

If a worrisome skin sore seems to always go through the cycle of healing then returning, it could be a sign of skin cancer, says the American Academy of Dermatology. There’s a chance it’s something totally normal that just needs a little help in fully being treated, or it could be a symptom of something worse. Don’t risk it.

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What Are Possible Complications Of Skin Cancer In A Child

Possible complications depend on the type and stage of skin cancer. Melanoma is more likely to cause complications. And the more advanced the cancer, the more likely there will be complications.

Complications may result from treatment, such as:

  • Loss of large areas of skin and underlying tissue

  • Scarring

  • Return of the skin cancer after treatment

Melanoma may spread to organs throughout the body and cause death.

Basal Cell Carcinoma Squamous Cell Carcinoma Of The Skin And Actinic Keratosis Often Appear As A Change In The Skin

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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.

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