Be aware of your skin

Early Detection – Spot the Cancer You Can See When It’s Easiest to Treat.

“The world’s most common cancer is a relentless disease that strikes one in five people by age 70. The good news is that 99 per cent of all cases are curable if they are diagnosed and treated early enough.”

Skin Cancer is the one cancer you can usually see with your own eyes- however, it may go undetected until it’s too late. When caught and treated early, skin cancers are highly curable. Professor Don Hudson weighs in on what you need to know about skin cancer, and why early detection is key;

What Should I Be Looking Out For? Because skin cancers appear in many shapes and sizes, it’s important to know the warning signs associated with the three major types of skin cancer – basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and melanoma:

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. If you know what to look for, you can spot warning signs of skin cancer early on. When it is small and has not spread, finding it early on makes skin cancer much easier to treat.

Malignant Melanoma (usually called just melanoma ) is generally the most serious of skin cancers. It is about the assessment of one’s moles. We all have moles – often many moles. But the appearance of a new mole or a mole that changes requires medical assessment.

Use the “ABCDE rule” to look for some of the common signs of melanoma, one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer:

  1. “A” Asymmetry. One part of a mole or birthmark doesn’t match the other.

  2. “B” Border. The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.

  3. “C” Colour. The colour is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.

  4. “D” Diameter. The mole or spot is larger than a pencil eraser (about 5 mm across) – although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this.

  5. “E” Evolving. The mole is changing in size, shape, or colour.

Also, be aware of any mole or freckle that:

  1. changes over a period of months

  2. grows in size

  3. changes shape

  4. becomes mottled in colour

  5. has a persistent itch.

The most common treatment, especially for melanoma that has not spread is surgical excision. This can sometimes be performed under local anaesthetic by a plastic surgeon. In some cases with more advanced disease, melanomas may be treated by immunotherapy and targeted therapy, chemotherapy, and (less frequently) radiotherapy.

Basal and squamous cell skin cancers are more common than melanomas, but they are usually very treatable.

Both basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas, or cancers, usually grow on parts of the body that are exposed to the sun, such as the face, head, and neck and limbs. However, they can show up anywhere.

Basal cell carcinomas; what to look for:

  1. An open sore that does not heal and may bleed, ooze or crust. The sore might persist for weeks or appear to recover and then come back.

  2. A reddish patch or irritated area on the face, chest, shoulder, arm, or leg may crust, itch, hurt, or cause no discomfort.

  3. A shiny bump or nodule that is pearly or clear, pink, red or white. The bump can also be tan, black or brown.

  4. A small pink growth with a slightly raised, rolled edge and a crusted indentation in the centre may develop tiny surface blood vessels over time.

  5. A scar-like area that is flat white, yellow or waxy in colour.

Squamous cell carcinomas; what to look for:

  1. A firm, red nodule

  2. A flat sore with a scaly crust

  3. A new sore or raised area on an old scar or ulcer

  4. An open sore that does not heal and may bleed, ooze or crust. The sore might persist for weeks or appear to recover and then come back.

  5. A rough, scaly patch on your lip that may evolve to an open sore

  6. A red sore or rough patch inside your mouth

  7. Wart-like growths

Please note, there are other types of skin cancer, and not all skin cancers meet these descriptions. If you have any skin issues you are concerned about, book a skin consult immediately – it could be skin cancer. Changes could include:

  1. Any new spots

  2. Any spot that does not look like others on your body

  3. Any sore that does not heal

  4. Redness or a further swelling beyond the border of a mole

  5. Colour that spreads from the edge of a spot into the surrounding skin

  6. Itching, pain, or tenderness in an area that does not go away or goes away then comes back

  7. Changes in the surface of a mole: oozing, scaliness, bleeding, or the appearance of a lump or bump

Where Is Skin Cancer The Most Common?

Skin cancer develops primarily on sun-exposed skin areas, including the scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, chest, arms and hands, and on the legs. But it can also form on areas that rarely see the light of day — your palms, beneath your fingernails or toenails, and even your genital area.

A risk factor is anything that increases your likelihood of developing a disease like cancer. When it comes to skin cancer, there are several risk factors that can contribute to the development of this disease, these include;

Anyone can get skin cancer, but people with certain characteristics are at greater risk—

  1. pale or fair skin or skin that burns easily and does not tan

  2. lots of moles on the skin

  3. having blue or green eyes.

  4. having blond or red hair.

  5. a number of large, irregularly shaped and unevenly coloured moles

  6. a history of many sunburns (as a result of over-exposure to UV)

  7. other people in the family who have had melanoma (family history)

  8. being older (risk increases with age).

  9. personal history of skin cancer.

What Are The Treatment Options For Skin Cancer?

Your dermatologist or plastic surgeon will advise you on the best treatment for your skin cancer. This will depend on the type of cancer you have, where it is if it has spread, your general health and what you want.

Most squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) of the skin can be cured when found and treated early. Often the best treatment is surgery. This can sometimes be performed under local anaesthetic as a day case-no hospital stay.

When detected early, most basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) can be treated and cured. Prompt treatment is always best. Again surgery (excision of cancer ) offers the most effective solution. However, in some instances of very early basal cell cancer, a cream or ointment may be used.

Skin cancer can happen to anyone, at any age, on any part of the body. Catching it early can be the difference between life and death.

See something new, changing or unusual? It could be skin cancer, click here to book a check-up with one of our specialists.