Skin Cancer | Early Detection

Anyone can get skin cancer. It is the most common cancer type in the U.S. The providers at MaineHealth will work with patients, so they can take the steps to prevent skin cancer. Do you have a spot or growth on your skin that needs to be checked by a provider? Early diagnosis and treatment are important to effective skin cancer treatment. 

What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer occurs when abnormal skin cells grow out of control and form tumors. The most common skin cancers are:

  • Basal cell carcinoma: Often found in sun-exposed areas like the shoulders, neck and head, basal cell carcinoma can come back if not removed completely. Patients who have had basal cell carcinoma are more likely to get it again.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma: Cells that are flat and constantly shedding, squamous cell carcinoma looks like open sores, scaly red patches or growths. When the cells become cancerous, they can slowly spread to other parts of the body if left untreated.
  • Melanoma: This very serious form of skin cancer can spread to other parts of the body and be deadly, if not diagnosed early. Early diagnosis is important for effective treatment.

A, B, C's of Skin Cancer Self-Exams

Be sure to check your body for changes in your skin. Use the ABCDE rule for checking your moles:

  • A: asymmetrical
  • B: border (the outer edges are uneven)
  • C: color (dark black or have multiple colors)
  • D: diameter (greater than 6 mm)
  • E: evolving (change in size, shape, and color)

Contact your provider if you notice a skin area that looks different.

Skin Cancer Symptoms

Most common cancer symptoms

The most common skin cancer signs are skin changes:

  • New growth
  • Sore that does not heal
  • Change in a mole

Not all skin cancers look the same. Be sure to contact your health care provider right away if you see abnormal changes on your skin.

Skin Cancer Diagnosis

Skin biopsies sample tissue for cancer

Skin cancer screening starts with a physical evaluation of symptoms. Tests can be done to determine the presence of cancer and which type of skin cancer it could be.

Skin biopsies, or samples, remove tissue from the lesion. The sample is looked at under a microscope and determined to be cancerous or non-cancerous.

Skin Cancer Treatment

There are different treatments for skin cancer

Skin cancers are often removed with excisions. One of the most effective forms of skin cancer treatment is Mohs surgery. Layers of skin are carefully removed and looked at under a microscope, until only healthy tissue remains. Other treatments include radiation, photodynamic therapy, laser surgery, and topical medications. Systematic treatment sends medication throughout the patient’s body, and may be used to treat advanced stages of skin cancer.

Skin Cancer Prevention

Adults and kids need protection from the sun

An important step to prevent skin cancer is to protect your skin. Both adults and children need protection from too much sunlight.

  • Avoid direct sunlight.
  • Wear protective clothing that covers arms and legs.
  • Wear a hat and sunglasses that protect against UV rays.
  • Use sunscreen.