The first thing you need to know is that different types of skin cancer look different. Some types, for example, may appear as a small crusted or scaly area of the skin which sits on a red or a pink base. Non-melonoma type cancer typically begins as a small red or pink lump in the shape of a dome.
A melanoma predominantly begins as a dark spot or a mole on the skin. Other symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes can occur if the melanoma spreads to other parts of the body.
There are a number of symptoms which can indicate the presence of skin cancer including a spot or lesion that:
- Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ changes in size
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ develops an irregular shape
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ develops an irregular colour
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ becomes inflames
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ develops an ulcer
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ feels different to touch
Dont jump to conclusions and panic- the mere presence of one of these signs doesn’t necessarily mean you have developed skin cancer. However, to ensure your peace of mind and also ensure you receive early treatment, you should always visit your doctor to have it checked ASAP. Don’t put it to the back of your mind just in case.
Although extensive research is taking place all the time, the cause of skin cancer still remains a grey area. However it is usually agreed by scientists that exposure to intensive ultraviolet rays from the sun is probably the main risk factor, especially for those who have fair skin which burns easily.
Those people who have brown, darker or olive complexions generally have a lower risk of developing skin cancer although the risk is still there.
Other factors which can increase the risk of a person developing skin cancer include:
- Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ skin which has an excessive amount of moles
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ family history of skin cancer
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Blond or red hair,
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ considerable sunburn during childhood
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ use of a sun bed or tanning lamp
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ working outdoors with an increased exposure to sunlight compared to indoor work.
During examination of your suspect moles or skin areas, your general practitioner will carefully examine you and your suspect skin areas to check whether he thinks you have any type of skin tumour. If he decides you are at risk, he will probably send you to a dermatologist or another specialist doctor who specialises in cancers, known as an Oncologist. Further tests will then be performed to establish the cause for your symptoms.
Tests you will have may include
Biopsy the doctor removes the doubtful skin lesion or will remove a small sample of the tissue with a fine needle. This sample will then be sent to be examined to ascertain whether it is a cancer and if so, what type it is.
X-rays and CT (computerised axial tomography). This scan will provide your practitioner with information such as how far the cancer has spread, if at all.
Sentinel node biopsy – this is when the doctor removes the lymph node closest to the melanoma. An examination of the lymph node will then take place to check whether you have any form of cancer.