Start Your Care With A Fellowship
This may seem like a no-brainer, but when it comes to skin cancer treatment, youre better off beginning your care with a board-certified dermatologist. Choosing a dermatologist with fellowship training in skin oncology and dermatologic surgery is also important.
Sometimes people go right to a plastic surgeon when they have something on their face, Dr. Lee explains. But skin cancer can grow wider than anticipated, making complete removal tricky.
One way to ensure that you get the best cosmetic outcome is to seek out a dermatologist with experience in treating facial skin cancer. Dermatologists who have completed a dermatologic surgery fellowship tend to have the most experience with facial cancers, Dr. Lee says. Ask your dermatologist for a referral to a dermatologic surgeon or seek treatment at a medical center with dermatologic surgeons on staff.
Fellowship-trained dermatologic surgeons are experts in delicate skin-sparing procedures that can better preserve your appearance while also making sure that all of the cancer is removed. They are also skilled in reading pathology, Dr. Lee points out, which gives them an excellent understanding of how cancer grows so they can ensure that they are removing all of it.
And if you do need a plastic surgeon, a dermatologic surgeon will be able to advise you.
Reducing Risk With Skin Evaluations
Most skin cancers can be successfully treated when detected early. Thats why our dermatologists encourage patients to have annual skin checks, perform regular self-examinations, and protect their skin with sunscreen and wear protective clothing.
While all people can get skin cancer, some people are at greater risk, and should be evaluated more regularly:
- People with fair skin
- People with a history of sunburns, or a personal or family history of skin cancer
- People who have a large number of moles or precancerous skin lesions, called actinic keratosis
- Organ transplant recipient
If you have had a skin cancer there may be ways to reduce your risk of future skin cancers. Our dermatologists will be able to discuss these options with you.
What Should You Do If You Notice A New Or Abnormal Mole Or Freckle
Heres a quick guide to deciding whether a new or changing mole, freckle, or spot on your body may need to be seen by a doctor:
- Asymmetry. Is the spot different shapes on each side? Spots that arent perfectly round or symmetrical may be an early sign of skin cancer.
- Border irregularity. Is the border around the area jagged or irregular? Look at where the color of the spot contrasts with the color of your skin. If this line is not clearly defined, the spot may be at a higher risk of becoming cancerous.
- Color. Is the color consistent throughout the spot? Areas that are multiple shades of tan, brown, or black may be a cause for concern.
- Diameter. Is it larger than 1/4 of an inch? Large spots that are bigger than this are more likely to become cancerous, especially if they keep growing.
- Evolving. Does it change each time you look at it? Areas that change may result from irregular cancerous cell growth that a dermatologist needs to examine.
The above are possible signs of melanoma.
You should also see a dermatologist if you notice anything that:
- does not heal
- is pink, scaly, and does not resolve
- is a new, abnormal growth
These can be signs of non-melanoma skin cancers, such as basal cell or squamous cell.
You can also talk with a doctor about anything your find concerning, even if the mole or freckle does not meet any of the above requirements. If youre ever nervous or uncertain about your health, talking with a doctor can help you get answers.
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The Step By Step Self
You have the most powerful tool to detect skin cancer. Your eyes. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that you do a head-to-toe self-examination of your skin every month, and if you see something, do something. Remember, if you detect skin cancer early enough, you can be A-OK. So, what are you waiting for?
How Do I Protect Myself From Ultraviolet Rays
Most skin cancers are caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet rays. Most of this exposure comes from the sun, but some can come from man-made sources, such as indoor tanning beds and sun lamps. People who get a lot of exposure to UV rays are at greater risk for skin cancer.
The main types of UV rays that can affect your skin include UVA rays and UVB rays. UVB rays have more energy and are a more potent cause of at least some skin cancers, but both UVA and UVB rays can damage skin and cause skin cancer. There are no safe UV rays. Radiation.)
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Do Your Own Skin Cancer Screenings
If youre totally low-risk with dark skin, no history of skin cancers, no past tanning bed trips, and dont want to see a derm for a skin cancer screening? Keep up with self-checks and make sure to see a dermatologist if you notice any asymmetry , changes in border, changes in color , changes in diameter , or any evolving moles.
No matter how often you see a dermatologist, noticing skin cancer is not all up to your derm. Fifty percent of melanomas are picked up by patients themselves or a family member, notes Dr. Khorasani. Thats why every quarter, after you get out of the shower, Dr. Glashofer suggests doing a self-check of your skin and moles, keeping an eye out for any changes in the ABCDEs, itching, or bleeding. Take ownership of your moles, he says. After all, your dermatologist usually only sees your skin once a year you see it every single day.
And its worth mentioning: Getting your skin checked is not a time to be modest, says Dr. Khorasani. You can have skin cancer anywhere even in places where the sun doesnt shine. So while it may be uncomfortable to strip down in front of your doc, it could also be the difference between catching a deadly disease early and not. If you dont feel comfortable with your doctor, its important to switch derms and find one youre more at ease around, says Dr. Khorasani.
MATTERS OF FACT:Exploring the intersection of science & society.
Help Getting Through Cancer Treatment
People with cancer need support and information, no matter what stage of illness they may be in. Knowing all of your options and finding the resources you need will help you make informed decisions about your care.
Whether you are thinking about treatment, getting treatment, or not being treated at all, you can still get supportive care to help with pain or other symptoms. Communicating with your cancer care team is important so you understand your diagnosis, what treatment is recommended, and ways to maintain or improve your quality of life.
Different types of programs and support services may be helpful, and can be an important part of your care. These might include nursing or social work services, financial aid, nutritional advice, rehab, or spiritual help.
The American Cancer Society also has programs and services including rides to treatment, lodging, and more to help you get through treatment. Call our National Cancer Information Center at 1-800-227-2345 and speak with one of our trained specialists.
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.
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.
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Sun Safety And Uv Prevention Tactics
UV exposure increases your risk for all skin cancers. When youre outdoors, its helpful to put something between the sun and your skin. Take advantage of shade, an umbrella at the pool or beach, a hat , sunglasses, keeping your shirt on while mowing, and so on.
If you know your skin will be exposed, use a broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen. Dont be stingy with applying the sunscreen you have to use a generous layer to achieve the SPF on the label. Reapply the sunscreen every couple of hours if youll be outside for a long time, and more often if youre swimming or sweating.
We strongly advise that you avoid tanning booths, which are linked to increased risk of melanoma.
Its true that previous sunburns increase the risk that youll get skin cancer someday. However, if you are more careful now, youre doing your skin a big favor. You will be less likely to encounter the final straw that turns damaged skin cells into cancerous ones. Focus on keeping your skin healthy now, and check your skin regularly so that if cancer turns up, you can catch it early when its far easier to treat and cure.
What Does Actinic Keratoses Look Like
AKs are often called horns because they have bases that are larger in diameter with raised parts that may hook at the end. This can create an appearance similar to horns.
Other common characteristics include:
- Texture thick and scaly
- Coloring pink or red in color for most people, but they can also be white or silver
- Location usually developing in sun-exposed areas like the hands, face, ears, nose, scalp, shoulders, and lips
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Should I Have Routine Skin Cancer Screenings
While many routine cancer screenings, such as colonoscopies and mammograms, are recommended when a person reaches a certain age, there are no widely adopted age standards for dermatological screenings. Most primary physicians will perform a quick skin check at a routine physical, but we recommend that those with a higher risk for skin cancer have a thorough skin screening by a dermatologist at least once a year. This includes anyone with:
- A family history of melanoma in two or more blood relatives
- Multiple atypical moles
- Numerous actinic keratoses
- An organ transplant
Questions For Your Skin Cancer Healthcare Team
Here are some questions you might want to ask your dermatologist or other health professionals you see:
- What type of skin cancer do I have?
- What stage is my cancer?
- How much experience do you have treating my type of skin cancer?
- What do you suggest is the best treatment for me?
- Are there other options? What are they?
- How effective is the treatment for my skin cancer?
- What are the side effects of treatment?
- How likely is it that my cancer will return after treatment?
- Should I stay out of the sun or take special precautions when outdoors?
- Do you accept my insurance plan?
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Visit Us Dermatology Partners For An Annual Skin Exam
When youre ready for your annual comprehensive skin cancer exam, the U.S. Dermatology Partners team would love to hear from you. You can get started scheduling an appointment in one of our numerous office locations, using our simple request form online.
We are also happy to offer virtual consultation services online, using our teledermatology video platform. You can use our virtual visit request form to schedule an online teledermatology session. As soon as our team receives your appointment request form for an in-office or virtual visit, well be in touch to finalize all the details.
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Why The Cancer Council Does Not Endorse Skin Check Services
Commercial skin check providers regularly approach Cancer Council for endorsement of their services.
Some of these are doctor clinics and are no different than any doctor service provider. Cancer Council cannot promote one doctor service provider over another.
Secondly, Cancer Council does not have the resources to monitor the quality of service provided by all skin check providers in order to make sound recommendations. Instead, we provide information that will allow you to make an informed decision about your own choice of skin check provider.
For more information, download the Your guide to skin and mole clinics fact sheet .
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Looking For Signs Of Skin Cancer
Non melanoma skin cancers tend to develop most often on skin thats exposed to the sun.
To spot skin cancers early it helps to know how your skin normally looks. That way, youll notice any changes more easily.
To look at areas you cant see easily, you could try using a hand held mirror and reflect your skin onto another mirror. Or you could get your partner or a friend to look. This is very important if youre regularly outside in the sun for work or leisure.
You can take a photo of anything that doesnt look quite right. If you can its a good idea to put a ruler or tape measure next to the abnormal area when you take the photo. This gives you a more accurate idea about its size and can help you tell if its changing. You can then show these pictures to your doctor.
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Who Is Most At Risk For Skin Cancer
Although anyone can develop skin cancer, those that are most at risk for skin cancer are people who:
- Have had an organ transplant
- Tan or use tanning beds
- Get easily sunburned
- Have fair or freckled skin
- Have a family history of skin cancer
- Have blue eyes
- Take medications that suppress/weaken the immune system
People who work or spend more time outdoors have an increased risk for skin cancer, especially those in sunny climates. People with darker skin are still able to get skin cancer, but the risk is substantially lower. Organ transplant patients are up to 100 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma skin cancer when compared to the general population, largely because they take medications that suppress their immune systems.
Risk factors unique to melanoma include a history of severe sunburns and an abundance of large and irregular moles.
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What Are Differences Between Melanoma And Other Skin Cancers
Melanoma, Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma each arise from different cell types in the top layer of the skin.
BCC and SCC are far more common and also far less dangerous than melanoma. Each year, over 2 million people in the U.S. are diagnosed with BCC and SCC. When detected and treated early, nearly all BCCs and SCCs can be cured.
In comparison, approximately 139,000 people will be newly diagnosed this year with melanoma the most deadly form of skin cancer. Unfortunately, melanoma has a greater tendency to aggressively spread beyond the skin, to lymph nodes and internal organs. Thankfully, however, the vast majority of melanomas are caught early and cured.
How To Remove Warts
The Skin and Cancer Institute offers a variety of treatments for removing warts, which include:
- Cryotherapy with liquid nitrogen is the most common treatment for warts. The wart is frozen and eventually falls off.
- Excision completely removes the wart with a scalpel and usually requires stitches and local anesthesia.
- Laser treatment is a good option for warts that have been resistant to other therapies.
- Chemical peels are effective for clusters of warts.
- Topical medication is the first line of treatment your dermatologist will recommend for genital warts.
- Cantharidin is applied to warts to cause a blister to form under the growth. The wart will slowly separate from the underlying tissue over a week. When the tissue is fully detached, you return to the office so your dermatologist can cut off the dead wart.
- Electrodesiccation and curettage is effective for common, filiform, and foot warts. Electrodesiccation burns the wart, and a curette scraps off the dead tissue.
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