Could This Be Skin Cancer?
March 6, 2013
I know that living here tends to put residents of the Sunshine State at a higher risk for developing cancerous skin lesions. And with the month of May marking the beginning of Skin Cancer Awareness Month, now is the time to educate yourself about the various types of skin cancer.
The three most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Basal and squamous cell carcinomas are typically locally destructive lesions while melanoma has the potential to metastasize, or spread, to other organs in the body. Cancerous lesions commonly occur on sun exposed areas of the body but they can occur anywhere on the body.
What to look for?
Il believe that it is important to look at your skin regularly and take note of any new or changed lesions. Use the ABCDE guide for skin to help identify suspicious looking lesions.
A=Asymmetry: suspicious if you can’t put a mirror in the middle and it looks the same on both sides
B=Border: look for irregular or jagged borders
C=Color: if the lesion is very dark itself or if there is color variation within one lesion
D=Diameter: larger than the end of a pencil eraser
E=Evolution: changing lesion
Also, be on the lookout for red, domed, crusting or scaling lesions, anything that bleeds for no reason and areas that don’t heal with adequate time. There are some places that are not that easy to see yourself, for instance the back and scalp, so it is advised to see a dermatologist every 6 months to 1 year for a full skin exam or anytime you may find a suspicious lesion.
What kind of treatment is done?
If a lesion is suspected to be cancer, a biopsy will be performed to get a confirmative diagnosis. Based on that biopsy report, further treatment will be done. Most skin cancers are surgically excised in order to obtain a margin report to ensure the skin cancer is gone. Other less invasive options are available, depending on the type of skin cancer. Every case is unique so your dermatology provider will take into account the presentation and pathology report to decide which option is appropriate for you. If the diagnosis is melanoma, further testing, frequent follow up and close monitoring by dermatology and oncology specialists are necessary due to the risk of metastasizing.
How can skin cancer be prevented?
Some skin cancers can be prevented by limiting sun exposure and protecting yourself during times of exposure, especially during the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is advisable to wear a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 as well as protective clothing and a wide-brimmed hat daily. Reapplication of sunscreen is important about every hour during sun exposure if you are in the water. Having a regular skin exam done by a dermatologist will ensure that suspicious lesions are treated appropriately in a timely fashion.
- Lauren McConeghy, PA-C, MMS