If you have a suspicious mole somewhere on your body, it's important to get it checked out right away. Your family doctor can refer you to a dermatologist for further evaluation and testing. Part of the initial evaluation may be a total body exam to help locate any moles that may be suspicious for precancerous or cancerous lesions. Here are a just a few ways to identify skin cancer and what to expect as you pursue treatment options.
Signs Of Skin Changes
The average person has around 30 moles on their body, although it can be up to 400, according to Medgadget. If you've noticed that a mole has changed in appearance, or gotten a lot bigger, it's time for a checkup at a dermatology clinic. Remember the ABCDE rule:
- A- Asymmetry—where one half of the mole is different than the other side.
- B- Border irregularity.
- C- The color of the mole is not uniform.
- D- A mole diameter that is larger than the size of a pencil eraser.
- E- Where the mole is getting bigger, or evolving in color, diameter and shape.
If you've examined your mole and have any concerns about its appearance or size, a skin cancer evaluation is recommended. From there, your dermatologist will evaluate and possibly perform a skin biopsy to check the cells for cancer. If you have cancer, the next step is seeking the right treatment.
Types Of Skin Cancer
There are three main types of skin cancer:
- Squamous cell carcinoma
- Basal cell carcinoma
Melanoma is the most deadly of skin cancers. The reason for this is because it can camouflage itself as a dark mole, and can be found anywhere—including places you might not always check, such as your scalp or back. It spreads fast and can be difficult to treat once it's metastasized—that's why early detection and treatment is crucial. Squamous cell is a slow growing type of cancer that presents itself as scaly patches of skin that don't heal properly. Basal cell carcinoma appears as subtle changes in existing moles or new lesions that appear as pearly-colored bumps. Squamous cell and basal cell cancers are slow-growing and can be easily treated if detected at an early stage.
Surgery And Treatment Types
Melanoma treatment typically involves surgery to remove the cancer and the surrounding tissue. A CT or other type of scan may be used to see if the cancer has spread. If it has, treatment may include chemotherapy, immunotherapy or radiation therapy to help target the cancer and nearby tumors. Basal cell carcinoma often includes excision of the affected site and electrodessication and curettage to cut the mole or affected area away. An option for basal cell and squamous cell is micrographic surgery called Mohr's Surgery. This involves cutting away small amounts of tissue, and examining them under a microscope until no more cancer cells are present.
Reducing Your Risks For Skin Cancer
The main goal is to treat and eradicate each individual skin cancer. Because each case is different, your dermatologist will discuss the best treatment plan for you. One of the most important things to consider is preventing future recurrence. Using UV ray protection at all times when you're outdoors is recommended. Routine self-exams at least every 6 months is also recommended. Annual dermatology visits can also help reduce your risk of developing an advanced skin cancer or skin disorder.
Early detection is always the best solution with treating skin cancer. Contact your dermatologist today for a complete skin cancer evaluation. It could save your life.