Skin Cancer Symptoms & Early Detection
Skin cancer is almost always curable if detected and treated early. With regular self-examinations and skin cancer screenings by a qualified skin care professional, most cases of skin cancer can be detected while the disease is still in its early stages.
Examing Your Skin
The American Cancer Society recommends a monthly self-examination to look for any growths or lesions that are new or changing. If you notice anything suspicious, you should promptly make an appointment with a professional experienced in conducting full-body screenings for the signs and symptoms of skin cancer.
Conduct your self-exam in a well-lit room in front of a full-length mirror. You will also need a hand-held mirror for your back and other places that are hard to see. Also ask a family member or friend to help. A skin self-exam only takes about 10 minutes and is an important step in safeguarding the health of you and your family.
Skin Cancer Signs & Symptoms
Skin cancer begins when malignant cells form in the skin. The three types of skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Symptoms include sores that will not heal, new growths or lesions, and skin that changes in size, shape or color.
Non-melanoma skin cancers
Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are by far the most common kinds of skin cancer. Fortunately, they are also the easist to cure with early detection and prompt treatment. These forms of the disease are called "non-melanoma skin cancers" to set them apart from more serious cases of melanoma.
Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas may appear as:
- Sores or discolored patches of skin that fail to heal
- Sores that heal and return
- Scaly patches of skin that bleed easily
- Small, pearly growths with raised edges
- Shiny red or pink lesions
- Other skin lesions that appear to be new, changing or abnormal
When examining your skin, the "ABCDE Rule" for melanoma can help you identify this most dangerous form of skin cancer:
- A is for asymmetry — half of the mole is different from the other half
- B is for border irregularity — edges of the mole are ragged, irregular or blurred
- C is for color variation — the mole has more than one color
- D is for diameter greater than 1/4 inch — about the size of a pencil eraser
- E is for evolving — the mole changes in size, shape or color