Moles, coloured spots and growths on the skin are usually harmless — but not always.
The earlier a skin cancer is identified and treated, the better your chance of avoiding extensive surgery and other advanced treatments such as immunotherapy and chemotherapy. For some cancers, non-surgical methods such as the use of a topical cream is adequate treatment.
It’s crucial to get to know your skin and what is normal for you. This way, you will notice any changes or irregularities that may develop, as skin cancers rarely cause pain and are more frequently seen than felt.
How do I look for a skin cancer?
- Undress completely and make sure you are standing in adequate light.
- Check your entire body. Skin cancers can sometimes occur in parts of the body that are not regularly exposed to the sun, like the soles of the feet, between fingers and toes and under nails.
- Use a mirror to check hard to see places, like your back and scalp. Or have a partner, friend or family member to check for you.
- Make a note of any moles or freckles that look suspicious or that you would like to have checked by a trained skin doctor.
What should I look for in a skin cancer?
The first symptom of a skin cancer is usually the appearance of a new spot, or a change in an existing freckle or mole. This change may be in its shape, colour or size and is normally noticed over weeks to months.
The ABCDE guidelines provide a useful way to monitor your skin and detect the early signs of melanoma. ABCDE stands for
One-half of a mole or freckle does not match the other.
The edges are irregular, ragged, notched or blurred.
The colour is not the same all over and may have differing shades of brown or black, sometimes with patches of red, white, or blue.
The area is larger than 6 mm (about the size of a pencil eraser) or is growing larger.
Changes in size, shape, colour, elevation, or another trait (like itching, bleeding or crusting) are all red flags.
The ABCDE guidelines provide a useful way to monitor your skin and detect the early signs of melanoma but note that this is just a guide and melanoma and other skin cancers may present with different characteristics. This is why it’s important to have a specially-trained doctor like Dr Neil Chorley and Dr Donna Armstrongat Southport Skin Cancer Centre examine your skin and monitor existing lesions at least every twelve months, and more frequently if a high-risk patient.
Skin cancer checks at Southport Skin Cancer Centre
By developing a regular habit of checking your skin for any new spots and changes in existing spots, you can drastically improve your chances of diagnosing skin cancer early and successfully treating it.