Symptoms & Diagnosis of Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer Signs SymptomsWhile it’s essential to have a dermatologist examine any suspicious areas, being aware of the signs of skin cancer can help you determine when you should seek a professional opinion. Skin cancer signs differ between the various types. Fortunately, most skin lesions are not skin cancers, but a dermatologist is most qualified to make a definite diagnosis.

Mohs surgery is the most effective treatment for most types of skin cancer.

You want your skin cancer treatment to be performed with the highest standards of quality and competency. The American College of Mohs Surgery is the only organization that requires its members to have completed an extensive fellowship that requires at least one full year of training and hands-on experience provided by highly qualified instructors after completing their years of residency training.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer.

Where to watch:
Basal cell carcinoma often appears on areas most exposed to the sun such as the head, face, ears, neck, upper back, hands, and arms.

What to look for:
It can look like a small, pearly, translucent bump, an area of thickened scar tissue, or a red, scaly patch. They can often bleed, crust over, but not completely heal.

These images show some of the many faces of basal cell carcinoma. They often start as small, painless, pink or flesh-colored pearly bumps. If they are neglected, they continue to grow, expanding both deeper and more broadly. While BCC does not tend to spread to other parts of the body, they can be locally destructive, effectively invading any tissue in its immediate path.

Squamous Cell Cancer

While people with light skin, hair, and eyes have the highest risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma, chronic sun exposure increases anyone’s risk as well. It differs primarily from basal cell carcinoma in its ability to spread into the lymph nodes and internal organs.

Where to watch:
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) often appears on the scalp, face, ears, lips, hands, and lower legs.

What to look for:
The early stages of squamous cell skin cancer can appear as a red, scaly, flat patch, or a scaly bump. Sometimes, rapidly growing SCCs can be quite tender to the touch. The majority of these, however, are pain-free.

These images show squamous cell carcinoma. They may start as small, scaly bumps, which can range from totally painless to quite tender to the touch. They can grow to form knots on the skin, or grow deeply and become open sores. If left untreated, these can grow into large tumors, which can spread to the lymph nodes and other internal organs.

Melanoma

Melanoma is not the most common type of skin cancer, but it is one of the most dangerous. Only about a third of melanomas arise from previously-existing moles. The rest of them originate from an otherwise normal-appearing area of skin.

Where to watch:
Melanoma can develop anywhere on the body. In men, it’s most common on the chest, abdomen, or back; in women, it’s most common on the lower legs.

What to look for:
Some of the warning signs for melanoma include:

  • A dark spot that appears suddenly next to or within an existing mole.
  • An existing mole changes in the color or size.
  • An existing mole begins crusting, oozing, or bleeding.
  • Pigment spreads from the border of a mole into surrounding skin.
  • A mole becomes tender, painful, or itchy.

Why Choose A Fellowship Trained Mohs Surgeon?

You want your skin cancer treatment to be performed with the highest standards of quality and competency. The American College of Mohs Surgery is the only organization that requires its members to complete an extensive fellowship with at least one full year of training and hands-on experience provided by highly qualified instructors after completing their years of residency training. Learn more.

Get a Proper Diagnosis

If you notice a suspicious change on your skin, it’s important to see a dermatologist for a skin cancer screening as soon as possible. Examining your skin every month is the best way to catch skin cancer as early as possible. Pay attention to any changes. Get to know the pattern of your moles, scars, spots, freckles, and other marks on your skin so you can detect any changes. Early diagnosis and treatment increase your chances of curing the cancer.

The most common way to diagnose skin cancer is through a biopsy. The dermatologist will numb the area, then remove all or a portion of the suspicious area. The tissue is usually sent to a lab to be examined under a microscope by a dermatopathologist. Your doctor will want to know when you first noticed the change in your skin, your symptoms, and your history of sun exposure.

It’s important to have your skin regularly examined by a dermatologist. Make an appointment immediately if you find any suspicious areas.

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Source: American College of Mohs Surgery. Used with permission