Your skin is your largest organ, and it’s the one most likely to develop cancer at some point. While that can seem daunting, it’s important to know that most skin cancers are highly treatable, especially if they’re addressed early on.
At the practice of Ali Hendi, MD, in Chevy Chase, Maryland, Dr. Hendi and our team of skin cancer experts diagnose and treat all forms of the disease. In this blog, they discuss the signs you should look for to protect your skin and overall health.
Skin cancer 101
Skin cancer develops when cells within your skin grow uncontrollably. While it can affect most anyone, your chances are higher if you’ve spent a good deal of time in the sun or tanning beds.
Other risk factors include having light skin, hair, and eyes, being older, and having a family history of skin cancer. You may also be more prone to developing skin cancer if you have many moles or particular types of them.
The three main types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. While basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers are the most common, melanoma is the most dangerous.
Signs of skin cancer
Skin cancer typically appears as an unusual mole or lesion, but the particulars can vary depending on the type and severity.
Signs of basal cell carcinoma might include:
- A pearly or waxy bump
- A flat, brown or skin-colored lesion
- A bleeding sore that keeps returning
Signs of squamous cell carcinoma might include:
- A firm, red lump
- A flat, scaly lesion
- Crusty patches
Basal cell and squamous cell cancers usually form on areas of skin that have had ample sun exposure, such as the face or ears.
Signs of melanoma might include:
- A large, brown spot with dark speckles
- A mole that changes in color, feel, or size
- A mole that bleeds
- A small lesion with an irregular border or portions of blue, pink, red, or white
- An itchy, painful lesion
- Dark lesions on the palms, fingertips, soles of the feet, or on the membranes lining the mouth, nose, anus, or vagina
Melanoma most often shows up on a man’s face or trunk, or on a woman's lower legs. Unlike other skin cancers, melanoma can appear on skin that hasn’t had much sun exposure.
What to do about skin cancer signs
If you notice any potential signs of skin cancer, Dr. Hendi and his team can examine it. If it appears that you have skin cancer, they may remove part or all of the suspicious mole to test it. If it turns out that you have skin cancer, your treatment options may include:
- Mohs surgery
- A chemical peel
- Curettage and desiccation
- Freezing (cryotherapy)
- Laser surgery
- Topical anti-cancer medication
More extensive treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation, are reserved for the most advanced or severe cases.
Whether or not you notice signs of skin cancer, you can help yourself stay safe by having our team regularly check your skin. By checking you regularly, we can examine signs you might not have noticed, and we can check places you may not be able to see.
Then, if we discover an issue, we can take action right away. This can be especially important if you have a high risk of developing skin cancer.
To learn more about spotting the signs of skin cancer, or to get examined, call 301-812-4591 or book an appointment online with the practice of Ali Hendi, MD, today.