What Is Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Almost all skin cancers are the result of too much exposure to ultraviolet light. This is found in sunlight, tanning booths, and sunlamps. Skin cancer is usually one of the most curable types of cancer.
Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are two of the most common forms of skin cancer. They are very curable. These cancers occur in the basal and squamous cell layers at the top of the skin. They are almost always slow-growing. If found early, they are easy to treat and do not spread.
Melanoma is a less common but aggressive form of skin cancer. It occurs in skin cells that make a skin color pigment called melanin. If it is not found early, it will likely spread to other tissues. It can spread through the whole body and may cause death. Only 2% of skin cancer cases are melanoma. But it causes the most deaths from skin cancer.
Questions To Ask Your Doctor
- What should I look for when I do a self-examination of my skin?
- I have a mole thats getting bigger. Could it be skin cancer?
- I spent a lot of time in the sun as a child. Should I be checked for skin cancer regularly?
- My father had skin cancer. Am I more likely to have it, too?
- I have darker skin. Can I still get skin cancer?
- How quickly does my type of skin cancer grow and spread?
- Do I have an increased risk of additional skin cancers?
- Should I see a skin cancer specialist?
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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Risk Of Further Melanomas
Most people treated for early melanoma do not have further trouble with the disease. However, when there is a chance that the melanoma may have spread to other parts of your body, you will need regular check-ups. Your doctor will decide how often you will need check-ups everyone is different. They will become less frequent if you have no further problems. After treatment for melanoma it is important to limit exposure to the suns UV radiation. As biological family members usually share similar traits, your family members may also have an increased risk of developing melanoma and other skin cancers. They can reduce their risk by spending less time in the sun and using a combination of sun protection measures during sun protection times. It is important to monitor your skin regularly and if you notice any changes in your skin, or enlarged lymph glands near to where you had the cancer, see your specialist as soon as possible.
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Get To Know Your Skin
It is also a good idea to talk to your doctor about your level of risk and for advice on early detection.
It’s important to get to know your skin and what is normal for you, so that you notice any changes. Skin cancers rarely hurt and are much more frequently seen than felt.
Develop a regular habit of checking your skin for new spots and changes to existing freckles or moles.
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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.
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 specialise in reading X-rays and scans
- specialist nurses
- GPs with a special interest in skin cancer
- 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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Screening For Skin Cancer May Include Examination By Both The Patient And The Health Care Provider
A visual self-exam by the patient and a clinical examination by the health care provider may be used to screen for skin cancer.
During a skin exam a doctor or nurse checks the skin for moles, birthmarks, or other pigmented areas that look abnormal in color, size, shape, or texture. Skin exams to screen for skin cancer have not been shown to decrease the number of deaths from the disease.
Regular skin checks by a doctor are important for people who have already had skin cancer. If you are checking your skin and find a worrisome change, you should report it to your doctor.
If an area on the skin looks abnormal, a biopsy is usually done. The doctor will remove as much of the suspicious tissue as possible with a localexcision. A pathologist then looks at the tissue under a microscope to check for cancer cells. Because it is sometimes difficult to tell if a skin growth isbenign or malignant , you may want to have the biopsy sample checked by a second pathologist.
Most melanomas in the skin can be seen by the naked eye. Usually, melanoma grows for a long time under the top layer of skin but does not grow into the deeper layer of skin . This allows time for skin cancer to be found early. Melanoma is easier to cure if it is found before it spreads.
Five Easy Steps To Prepare Yourself
As part of a complete early detection strategy, we recommend that you see a dermatologist once a year, or more often if you are at a higher risk of skin cancer, for a full-body, professional skin exam.
To help you prepare and make the most of your appointment, follow these five simple steps.
During the exam
Remember that early detection of skin cancer is the key to the most minimal and cost-effective treatment with the highest chance of a cure. Make your appointment soon!
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People At High Risk For Skin Cancer Should Have Regular Skin Exams
Skin cancer is an ongoing health problem in the United States. More than two people die of skin cancer in the US every hour. One in five Americans will be diagnosed with some form of skin cancer in their lifetime.
While skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, it is also one of the easiest to treat when detected early.
This means being familiar with your skin and knowing the warning signs of skin cancer, especially if you are at higher risk of skin cancer, says Benjamin Kelley, MD, a dermatologist at Scripps MD Anderson Cancer Center and Scripps Clinic.
When to schedule a skin cancer screening?
Being at increased risk doesnt mean youll get skin cancer, but you may need to start regular screenings in case you do get skin cancer and it can be caught early, Dr. Kelley says.
The most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Melanoma makes up only 2 percent of cancers, but it is the deadliest.
Who is at risk for skin cancer?
Skin cancer can affect anyone, but some people are at higher risk.
Doctors recommend getting an annual skin cancer screening if you are in a high-risk category. Risk factors include:
The main cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet rays from the sun. Doctors recommend taking sun safety seriously and regular use of sunscreen as well as avoiding tanning beds.
What Is My Skin Type
Skin types that are more sensitive to ultraviolet radiation burn more quickly and are at a greater risk of skin cancer.
All skin types can be damaged by too much UV radiation. Skin types that are more sensitive to UV radiation burn more quickly and are at a greater risk of skin cancer.
People with naturally very dark skin still need to take care in the sun even though they may rarely, if ever, get sunburnt. The larger amount of melanin in very dark skin provides natural protection from UV radiation. This means the risk of skin cancer is lower.
Eye damage can occur regardless of skin type. High levels of UV radiation have also been linked to harmful effects on the immune system.
Vitamin D deficiency may be a greater health concern for people with naturally very dark skin, as it is more difficult for people with this skin type to make vitamin D.
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Consider Getting A Second Opinion On Pathology
The first step in diagnosing skin cancer is a skin biopsy. The tissue sample taken during the biopsy is sent to a pathologist, who then examines the cells under a microscope. Pathologists are usually certain about their diagnoses. But there are instances when the cancer cells look unusual or the pathology is inconclusive for some other reason.
How do you know if you need a second opinion if no one has told you to get one? Start by asking your doctor, says Dr. Lee. One way you might phrase the question is, Was the pathology definitive? If the doctor says no, thats your cue to seek out a second opinion on your pathology.
You can also review the pathology report yourself. Sometimes the report will say the diagnosis is inconclusive. Also be on the lookout for phrases such as most in keeping with or features of, says Dr. Lee. This is terminology indicating that the pathologist formed a hypothesis but wasnt absolutely certain.
One of the benefits of coming to MSK for care is that we review the pathology, says Dr. Lee. Most of the time we confirm the original diagnosis, but occasionally we do see differences.
Tips For Screening Moles For Cancer
Examine your skin on a regular basis. A common location for melanoma in men is on the back, and in women, the lower leg. But check your entire body for moles or suspicious spots once a month. Start at your head and work your way down. Check the “hidden” areas: between fingers and toes, the groin, soles of the feet, the backs of the knees. Check your scalp and neck for moles. Use a handheld mirror or ask a family member to help you look at these areas. Be especially suspicious of a new mole. Take a photo of moles and date it to help you monitor them for change. Pay special attention to moles if you’re a teen, pregnant, or going through menopause, times when your hormones may be surging.
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What You Can Do
Examine your skin once a month
See your dermatologist annually
Get a full-body, professional skin exam once a year or more often if you are at higher risk for skin cancer. Make the most of your appointment with these tips. If youve never seen a dermatologist, our physician finder can help you locate one.
What Should I Look For When Checking My Skin
Look for any new moles or changes in your skin, especially any of the following:
- A new lump, growth or spot
- A change in size, shape, and/or color of an existing mole, lump or growth
- A sore that doesnt heal
- A red or brown patch thats rough and scaly
- A pink pearly bump that bleeds easily
- Any mole or spot that is asymmetrical, or has an irregular border or uneven color
- Any mole or spot larger than ¼ of an inch
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Offering Comprehensive Evaluation And Treatment For All Types Of Skin Cancer
SLUCare Dermatology offers expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of all types of skin cancer, including squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma and melanoma. Fellowship-trained skin cancer specialist Dr. Eran Chen sees patients with each of these types of skin cancer and offers both clinical surveillance and surgical treatment for skin cancer patients.
Both Dr. Chen and SLUCare dermatologist Dr. Ramona Behshad perform in-office procedures under local anesthesia, including Mohs surgery an outpatient treatment for basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, boasting a 98% cure rate. For melanoma, the doctors offer surgical excision and slow Mohs treatment , depending on the depth and location of the cancer.
Who Is At Risk For Skin Cancer
According to Dr. Johnson, Anyone can develop skin cancer no matter their skin tone, age, or other factors. But, certain characteristics make some people more likely to develop skin cancer. These individuals need to be especially vigilant in performing regular at-home skin cancer screenings. Some of the factors that may increase the risk of developing skin cancer include:
- Light Skin Tone Individuals with less melanin are more likely to develop skin cancer, especially if they have experienced one or more severe sunburns or prolonged exposure to the suns damaging rays.
- Climate & Weather Living in warm, sunny places and areas at higher altitude means exposure to greater levels of UV radiation, which increases the risk developing of skin cancer.
- UVA/UVB Exposure Repeated, prolonged exposure to UV radiation through sunlight or tanning beds, significantly increases the likelihood of cellular damage to skin cells.
- Naturally Occurring Moles & Spots If the skin has numerous freckles, moles, and age spots naturally, the individual is much more likely to develop skin cancer, especially the deadliest form, melanoma.
- Radiation, Chemical & Toxin Exposure Those who interact with radiation, chemicals, or toxins regularly for their professions and those who are treated with radiation therapy are at increased risk for skin cancer.
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Should I See A Skin Cancer Doctor Gp Or Dermatologist For My Skin Cancer Check
Often, patients ask us what is the difference between coming to see our Skin Cancer Doctors for a skin cancer check rather than a GP or dermatologist. In this short video, Dr Hamilton Ayres explains how a skin check with each of these medical professionals might differ, and what might be best for you.
For Skin Cancer Doctors, their daily practice is dedicated exclusively to detecting and treating skin cancers. Skin cancer medicine is their subspeciality and their clinics are set up specifically for that function, including operating theatres and state-of-the-art technology geared towards finding and/or monitoring all types of skin cancer.
Seeing a Skin Cancer Doctor for your skin cancer check is beneficial because the doctors are all specially qualified and experienced in the area, and you have the opportunity to receive advice on skin cancer prevention and early detection during your skin check.
If the doctor finds a lesion of concern, the facilities are already in place to perform a biopsy, treatment and aftercare all under the one roof, so you get fast and effective care.
Dermatologists are general skin specialists, meaning they are skilled and experienced in dealing with a range of skin conditions, including skin cancer. Wait lists to see a specialist dermatologist are up to one year in Australia, and even longer in rural areas, and this can be an expensive option for skin cancer checks and treatment. You will also require a referral from your GP to see a specialist.