Catch Skin Cancer Early
Did you know that one in five people in the United States will be diagnosed with skin cancer before the age of 70? It is the most common cancer diagnosed in this country, but the good news is that if skin cancer is caught early, it is very treatable. Knowing the early warning signs of cancer and checking your skin regularly can make all the difference in avoiding the worst outcomes. Here, we discuss skin cancer symptoms, along with the different types of skin cancer treatment available.
Signs of Skin Cancer
There are different skin cancer warning signs because there are different types of skin cancer. Skin cancer occurs when the cells of the top layer of skin, the epidermis, begin to replicate uncontrollably. The type of cancer depends on which type of cell is affected: squamous cells, basal cells, or melanocytes.
- Basal Cell Carcinoma Signs: Malignant basal cells cause superficial bleeding or scabbing sores. These sores may not heal, or they may return if they do heal. Sometimes, they look like a waxy or pearly bump, or they may appear as scar-like lesions that are flat, flesh-colored, or brown.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma Signs: If the squamous cells become cancerous, you may notice flat lesions with a crusted, scaly surface. Cancer of the squamous cell can also appear as a firm, red nodule.
- Melanoma Signs: Cancer of the melanocytes is known as melanoma. On men, melanoma generally occurs on the face and trunk, while women experience these spots on their lower legs. If you have melanoma, you might notice a large, brownish spot with darker speckles, or you might see a mole that changes in color or size, or feels like a painful, burning, or itching lesion. People with melanoma also commonly develop dark lesions on the fingertips, toes, palms, and the mucous membranes of the anus, mouth, nose, or vagina.
- Kaposi Sarcoma Signs: Kaposi sarcoma is a rare skin cancer type that primarily affects the blood vessels of the skin. It shows up as a red or purple patch on the skin or mucus membrane.
- Merkel Cell Carcinoma Signs: If you notice firm, shiny nodules on or just beneath the skin or in the hair follicles, these could be signs of Merkel cell carcinoma, which typically affects the head, neck, and trunk.
Checking for Skin Cancer Symptoms
Because skin cancer does not tend to be painful, people often ignore the signs until it has progressed to a dangerous point. Dermatologists, doctors, and other skin care experts, however, advise performing a monthly self-check to look for signs of skin cancer. When you thoroughly check your skin each month, you’ll be better able to notice changes like new growths, changes in texture, discoloration, or swelling. In particular, pay attention to:
- Itchy red patches that do not go away. It’s common to get rashes like poison ivy, contact dermatitis, or poison oak, but an enduring red patch could also be a sign of basal cell carcinoma. This kind of cancer can also cause flat, yellow patches, shiny, pearly bumps in different colors, pink growths with raised edges, or open sores that are slow to heal.
- Suspicious lumps and bumps. Firm red, pink, or purple bumps can be a sign of Merkle Cell Carcinoma (MCC). These tumors can start anywhere on the body, grow quickly, and sometimes develop into ulcers or sores. Since MCC is a particularly dangerous type of cancer, get any suspicious lumps checked by your dermatologist as quickly as possible.
- Flat or raised lesions on the face or legs. Especially if they take on red, purple, or brown coloring, these could be a sign of Kaposi Sarcoma (KS). They’re not painful or itchy, so people often neglect to have these checked, but it’s always best to rule out cancer by seeing your dermatologist when you see something suspicious.
- Moles on the skin. Paying attention to moles can help you spot melanoma. Use the ABCDE method to detect anything that requires attention.
- A: Asymmetry, where the two halves of the mole don’t match each other.
- B: Borders that are poorly defined or irregular.
- C: Color variation in different areas of the mole.
- D: Diameter larger than a pencil eraser.
- E: Evolving moles, changing in size, shape, or color.
How To Treat Skin Cancer
The earlier you notice the signs of skin cancer, the more easily it can be treated. The skin cancer treatment will vary, depending on the stage of cancer, but doctors have many options, no matter your skin cancer stage.
- Mohs Surgery, the most effective method for skin cancer removal, is micrographic surgery that removed only diseased tissue, which is then examined immediately under the microscope.
- Electrodesiccation and Curettage (ED & C) uses low levels of electricity to burn the tumor and scrape if off of the skin.
- Surgical Excision the tumor is removed, along with some healthy skin, to make sure the removal is thorough.
- Cryotherapy involves freezing skin cancer with liquid nitrogen.
- Topical Chemotherapy is applied to the skin to destroy cancerous cells.
- Immunotherapy involves a topical cream, applied to the skin cancer area to stimulate the body’s natural immune response.
- Radiation therapy uses strong beams of energy to kill cancer cells or prevent their growth or division.
Call for a Skin Cancer Screening
In addition to checking your own skin monthly, you should schedule a yearly screening with a qualified dermatologist. If you need a skin cancer screening in Fort Collins or Loveland, CO, trust Divine Dermatology and Surgical Institute, Fort Collins’ best name in dermatology. At Divine Dermatology, we provide the highest quality care and the most advanced techniques available, in a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere. Our experienced team works under the leadership of the founder of the practice, Dr. Jennifer Divine, who is board-certified by the American Board of Dermatology and a member of the American Academy of Dermatology and the American College of Mohs Surgery. By tailoring treatment plans to meet each patient’s unique needs, and providing personalized attention, we’re able to provide effective care for a wide range of conditions. We treat skin, hair, and nail conditions and provide medical, cosmetic, and surgical services, providing comprehensive for people of all ages. Our expert skin cancer care includes diagnosis and tumor removal using standard surgical techniques and Mohs micrographic surgery, and we treat both common and rare skin conditions, as well as offering a wide array of cosmetic and aesthetic procedures. Reach out to us to schedule an appointment, call us at 970-399-7744 or contact us through our website.