Doctors Guide To Recognizing Skin Cancer

Doctors Guide To Recognizing Skin Cancer Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer and the third most common cause of death in the United States. It can be caused by a variety of things, including ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, exposure to chemicals, and some genetic mutations. Skin cancer can be treated with a variety of methods, but it's important to have it diagnosed early so that it can be treated effectively.

Doctors Guide To Recognizing Skin Cancer

Doctors Guide To Recognizing Skin Cancer

I don t talk about this a lot, but I think it's important to share. My father died of melanoma skin cancer over 20 years ago. I was actually in my second year of medical school when he was diagnosed with Metastatic Melanoma. I don t want you to have to go through that pain, and I wish I was able to make this video many years ago because when caught early, Melanoma and other skin cancers are so easy to treat, but you need to what to look out for. So keep watching because this may literally save you or a loved one's life. 

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. It is estimated that over two million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in 2017. Skin cancer can occur anywhere on the body but is more common on the head, neck, upper arms, and hands. There are several skin cancers that are more dangerous than others and should be treated with urgency.   

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Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. In fact, current estimates are that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, with over 9500 cases in the US diagnosed every day. So chances are, at some point in your life, either you or someone you love will have it. That is why knowing how to spot it and catch it early is so critical.  

skin cancer pictures early stages

The first important thing to understand about skin cancer is that not all skin cancers are the same. WE divide them using the terms melanoma skin cancer and non-melanoma skin cancers.  

Melanoma skin cancer speaks for itself, so we'll go over that one more in a minute but first, let s talk about your non-melanoma skin cancers. The most common ones are your Basal  Cell and Squamous cell carcinomas. Let s talk about Basal cells first. Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common skin cancer, with over 3.6 million cases diagnosed each year in the United States. It is thought to be caused by long-term damage to the skin by UV rays from the sun or tanning beds. As the UV rays hit the basal cell layer, it causes DNA changes to the cells, and over time these changes start to mutate and replicate, causing cancer. 

Because of that, they usually grow on sun-exposed parts of your body like your face, neck, scalp, arms, and hands.    Basal cell cancers can present in several different ways. They can look like open sores, red patches, pink growths, shiny bumps, scars, or growths with slightly elevated, rolled edges, often with central indentations. They can ooze, crust, itch, or bleed. So as you can see, there are many different ways this cancer can look. So how are you going to be able to tell? Well, quite frankly, you won't, and you should.  

Types of skin cancer on face

So a good role of thumb is that if you have a spot that just isn't t healing,  it s getting bigger or just not going away, get it looked at by your doctor.   Basal cell cancers need to be treated because as the tumor grows, it becomes more dangerous and potentially disfiguring, and certain rare, aggressive forms can be fatal if not treated. Options for treating  Basal cell cancers can include burning and scraping, excision, light therapy, freezing,  lasers, and topical medications.

Squalors cell carcinoma is the second most common skin cancer. These cancers are also caused by damage by UV rays or other damaging agents that affect the squamous cells in the top part of the skin.    They can appear as scaly red patches, open sores,  rough, thickened, or wart-like skin, or raised growths with a central depression. At times, they can crust over, itch, or bleed. They usually arise in sun-exposed areas but can arise in different parts of the body as well.

Most squamous cell cancers can be easily treated if caught early, but if they are allowed to grow, they can get huge, be disfiguring, and even become deadly. For example, this is a patient of mine who came in finally wanting to show me this. This had been growing for many years, and he would always try and hide it by wearing a hat until his wife finally made him come in and show it to me. This took several different surgeries, including removing part of his skull to be able to remove it all. He was lucky because it did t end up spreading to other parts of his body. 

doctors guide to recognizing skin cancer on face

Unfortunately, if not caught early, squamous cell cancers of the skin can be fatal. In fact, it is estimated that over 15,000 people die a year in the united states. That s twice the amount of deaths from Melanoma, actually. The only way that we are going to know if that spot is cancer, though, is by doing a biopsy. So your responsibility is not to be like my patient. If you have areas on your skin that are rough, getting larger, crusting, bleeding, or otherwise changing, don t ignore them. Get in right away to your primary care doctor or dermatologist and get it looked at. 

Most things, when they are small, can be easily and quickly treated. If you ignore it,  you will regret it.   The last non-melanoma skin condition that we are going to talk about is something called actinic keratosis. Actinic keratosis is small, rough, scaly, or flaky patches on the skin that can develop after years of sun exposure. It is most often found on the face,  lips, ears, forearms, scalp, neck, or back of hands. The reason that we care about these is that if left alone, they can be a precursor to developing squamous cell carcinoma. This is an ideal time to treat these because by getting rid of them, you can prevent them from turning into cancer.   

So look for rough, dry, or scaly patches of skin. They will usually feel a little bit raised, may have a hard texture, and can vary in color from pink, red, or brown. Usually, running your fingers over your skin and feeling for these rough patches is a good indication that you may have one. Sometimes these scales can fall off and regrow. If you notice these things, get to your doctor. They are most commonly treated by freezing them with liquid nitrogen, using topical medications, or some light therapy used at the dermatologist's office.   Now finally, we need to talk about Melanoma.

Skin cancer pictures early stages

This is the least common of the three, but it is more dangerous because of its ability to spread to other organs if it is t caught early. Melanoma is a cancer that develops after the skin cells called melanocytes are damaged and begin to grow uncontrollably. Melanoma is usually curable when caught early. In fact, the five-year survival rate in the US is 99%  when the cancer is found in the early stage. There will be over 7000 people a year, though, that will die from this disease.     Melanomas most commonly develop in areas that have had sun exposure, but they can occur in areas that don t receive much sun, like the bottom of your feet,  hands, fingernail beds, and even in the eye. 

Those that are most at risk of developing it are those with fair skin, a history of sunburns, excessive exposure to UV light from the sun or tanning beds,  having a lot of moles, and family history. Since early detection is the most important factor in surviving Melanoma, it's a good idea to become acquainted with your skin. Pay attention to any moles that you have and look for anything that is changing. So when you are looking at your skin, it's important to remember the ABCDE s of Melanoma. Stands for Asymmetry; you are looking for moles that are asymmetric. 

Look for ones that have irregular shapes where if you cut them in half, they would look a lot different B is for irregular borders. Look for moles with irregular, notched, scalloped, or even feathered borders. C is for color. Look for irregular and varying colors. There can be different shades of tan brown,  black, or areas of white, red, or blue.   D is the diameter. Moles that are greater than 6 mm or a  pencil eraser may need further evaluation. E is evolving; This refers to spots that are changing over time. Moles that are getting larger, changing in size, shape, or color need to be looked at.  

Skin cancer spots on face

One easy way that I think about it is remembering the classic song from Sesame Street; one of these things is not like the other. If you have one mole or spot that just looks different than the rest, then get it looked at.    When you go in to have these spots looked at, make sure you go to a  doctor that has experience looking at the skin. See your family practice doctor or a dermatologist. Just Make sure you feel confident in the answers they are giving you. Melanoma is very serious and needs to be taken care of right away and in the right way. 

Don t let it happen to you; what happened to my dad. He came in to have a dark spot looked at, and the doctor mistook it for something else and froze it. He didn t send it to a pathologist to look at and confirm the diagnosis. Unfortunately, a year later, he had metastatic disease and passed away within six months. If you have a dark spot that you are concerned about for Melanoma, it needs to be biopsied.     Skin cancer is not something that you want to mess with, but the good news is that if you catch it early, it is the easiest cancer to treat. So the take-home message that each of you needs to know and understand is that if you have any spot that is growing,  changing, crusting, bleeding, or just not healing. Get in to be seen.

It does t mean that it's going to be cancer, but if you ignore it, you will regret it.   But hopefully, what you don t regret is the time you have spent with us today. We hope that this gives you some guidance on what you need to be looking for. So we really appreciate the opportunity to share a little knowledge that hopefully can make your life better.


What are the signs and symptoms of skin cancer?

A: Skin cancer can be detected in a number of ways

The most common signs and symptoms are:

- A change in the color or shape of a mole, freck?

What is skin cancer?

How can I protect myself from skin cancer?

What are the warning signs to watch out for in order to detect skin cancer early?


it is important for both doctors and patients to be aware of the signs and symptoms of skin cancer in order to ensure an early diagnosis. If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, please see a doctor as soon as possible. Early detection is key to successful treatment of skin cancer. Thank you for reading!

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