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Skin Cancer

How To Find Out If You Have Melanoma

The process of detecting skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in the United States and most of the developed world, can be practiced with a monthly self examination combined with a yearly visit to your doctor. Early detection is key because, if diagnosed soon enough, skin cancer is almost always curable. There are three main types of skin cancer, all of which are visible if you know what to look for.

The three main types are basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and malignant melanoma (MM).

Melanoma, one of the main forms of skin cancer, is the deadliest.This disease is the most difficult to stop after it has spread throughout the body, which is why early detection and treatment are crucial. Skin cancer, of any kind, can usually be treated with success in it’s early stages.

Early detection is key because, if diagnosed soon enough, skin cancer is almost always curable.

As individuals, everyone has freckles, birthmarks and moles. These are a part of you and you are used to seeing them, but you may not notice slight changes right away and that’s what you need to be watching for.

Any change in a mole’s shape, edges, size or color should be checked by a physician. If a mole becomes larger than that of a pencil eraser or if it’s color is multiple shades of brown rather than a solid color, these are both potential warning signs of skin cancer.A mole’s border should be well defined and, if that is no longer the case, notify your doctor. In addition, any sore that will not heal or a mole that grows larger at a rapid speed should be tested immediately.

For this reason, it’s best to choose a physician that you are comfortable with, such as a family doctor. He/she can examine your skin and refer you to a dermatologist if needed. If the cancer has spread, or is very large in the defined area, additional surgery may be required. Deciding to seek medical attention is difficult.

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The presence of skin cancer is determined by removing all, or part, of the questionable area and testing it with a microscope. Surgery is often utilized in the removal of ski cancer and, if done in the early stages, can be a very quick process. There will likely be a scar, but the physician may be able to completely remove all cancerous cells with only a very small incision.

In that case, chemotherapy or radiation treatments may be ordered to ensure the cancer is completely removed. Your physician will be able to answer all questions that you may have and should do so without reserve. When meeting with a doctor, ask for an explanation of all treatment options, including their likelihood for success in your particular case. Deciding to seek medical attention is a big step and one that a patient must be mentally prepared for.

Prevention Despite the fact it is not feasible to completely eliminate the likelihood of skin cancer, the risk of developing such a cancer can be reduced significantly with the following steps:

* Stay clear from the use of tobacco products.

* Cut down overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, especially in early years

* Do your best to avoid sun exposure during the peak UV times during the day, typically from 10 AM to 3 PM (depending on country) when the sun is directly over head

* Wear protective clothing (hats and long sleeves) anytime you are outdoors

* Try to use a broad-spectrum of sunscreen that blocks both UVB and UVA rays

* Reapply sun block as directed by the manufacturers

Anyone who has a lengthy exposure to UV rays or have a family history of skin cancer, should have their their primary health care provider give them a routine comprehensive physical examination by way of a full body screening (all areas of the body's skin surface are examined, with the use of a special light and a magnifying glass, for abnormal masses, lesions, and cancerous neoplasms like BCC, SCC, and MM). This article should not be construed as professional medical advice. If you, or someone that you know, is concerned about the possibility of cancer, you should seek medical attention immediately. A medical doctor can discuss various options, prevention and treatment possibilities should the presence of cancer be detected. A series of tests may be conducted in order to confirm, or rule out, any such diagnosis and can only be done by a medical doctor.

Where can skin cancer develop Skin cancer tend to develop primarily on areas of the skin that has the most to the sun. This includes the face, neck, lips, scalp, ears, chest, arms and hands, and on the legs in women.

Nonetheless, it can also form on areas that rarely see the light of day — your palms, beneath your fingernails, the spaces between your toes, under your toenails, and around your genital. Skin cancer affects people of all skin types and this includes those with darker complexions. When melanoma occurs in those with dark skin, it's more likely to occur in areas not normally considered to be exposed to the sun.

Basal cell carcinoma signs and symptoms Basal cell carcinoma usually occurs in areas of your body normally exposed to the sun, such as your ears,scalp,or face. Basal cell carcinoma may appear as:

* A pearly or waxy bump

* A flat, flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesion

Squamous cell carcinoma signs and symptoms More than often, squamous cell carcinoma occurs on areas of your body normally exposed to the sun such as your hands,ears,lips, and face. Squamous cell carcinoma may appear as:

* A rigid, red nodule

* A flat lesion with a scaly, crusted surface

Melanoma signs and symptoms Melanoma can develop anywhere on your body,on a normal skin or in an existing mole that turns cancerous. Melanoma generally appears on the head or neck of affected men. Where as in women, this type of cancer most often develops on the lower legs. In both men and women, melanoma can occur on skin that hasn't been exposed to the sun. Melanoma can affect people of any skin type.

People with darker skin tones, tend to have melanoma occur on the soles or palms, under the toenails or fingernails.

* A significant brownish spot with darker speckles

* A mole that changes in color, size or feel or that bleeds

* A tiny lesion with an uneven border and portions that appear white,red, blue or blue-black

* Dark lesions on your palms, soles, fingertips or toes, or on mucous membranes lining your mouth, nose, vagina or anus.

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