If you have listened to the news lately you have heard all about the signs of skin cancer and how important early detection is. And yet, many people are still unable to tell what the signs of skin cancer are. They are missing the chance to detect it early when it is still easy to treat and the chances of survival are higher. Here are a few things that you should look for in some of the more common cancers.
Malignant melanomas are one of the most common forms of skin cancer. You may recognize melanoma as having to do with melanin, that part of skin which gives it color. Therefore, learning that this cancer can often start off as a mole may be less surprising. With malignant melanoma, experts urge you to check moles to make sure they have not changed into dangerous skin cancers. Early detection is critical because these cancers tend to spread quickly and can metastasize or spread to other bodily systems with alarming speed.
With melanoma, you want to check your moles on a regular basis. You should be especially cautious about any moles which are new or which have changed the way they look. Often you want to think ABC when you are looking at your moles. “A” stands for appearance. Any mole that has changed its appearance is worth getting checked out. “B” stands for borders. The borders of a non-cancerous mole should be even and regular. If the mole is uneven or looks like it has rough edges it needs to get checked out. “C” refers to color. Normal moles are a brown color. Any other color should be cause to get a check up.
The next form of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma. These cancers do not start out life as a mole. Instead, they start off looking like several different things. They can look like a sore which will not heal, a small firm lump, or even a scar or reddish patch of skin. It is important to get any strange scars or marks on the skin checked out since it can mean that you are developing a basal cell carcinoma. They are serious but they rarely spread to other organs. Remember that even if the cancer is not spreading to other organs or systems it is still growing and if they are causing open weeping sores, you will not find them very attractive to look at.
The third type of tumor that everyone should know about is squamous cell carcinoma. Like basal cell carcinomas these do not spread as fast or as commonly as melanomas. They also can be difficult to identify because they look like a number of different skin conditions such as scars or raised lumps. Like basal cell carcinomas they also do not tend to spread as much as melanomas although they can still metastasize.
Potential skin cancers are diagnosed in the same way. Doctors often biopsy an area that looks like it might be a problem. Depending on the test results, you may be required to undergo surgery, chemotherapy or even radiation therapy depending on the kind of cancer and whether it has spread throughout your body or not.
The effectiveness of skin cancer treatment is much better when you begin treatment shortly after a skin cancer has started to grow. Unfortunately many people do not regularly perform self examinations at home and do not get any areas they are concerned about checked out. Because early treatment can be the key to getting rid of the tumor completely, it is critical that you get in to see your doctor so that they can check you over as well.