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Skin Cancer Awareness Month: Looking at the Early Stages of Skin Cancer

A Look at the Early Stages of Skin Cancer

When skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, it pays to know how to examine yourself for early signs. Here are a few early signs of skin cancer you should look out for.

Pearly or Waxy Bump

Basal cell carcinoma can often take the form of a pearly or waxy bump on the skin. When we say pearly or waxy, we mean the bump may have the feel or look of hardened wax or like there’s a small pearl underneath your skin. These bumps are often mistaken for benign cysts. If you have a history of cysts, you may be used to bumps like these. But if you have no skin history of cysts, it may be time to visit a doctor when you notice a bump like this on your body.

Scaly Red Patches of Skin

Scaly red patches of skin are a telltale early warning sign of squamous cell carcinoma. After basal cell carcinoma, it is one of the most commonly diagnosed types of skin cancer in the United States. A patch of skin like this on your body should be monitored closely. If you’ve been diagnosed with eczema, you may be having a flare-up. But if you’ve ruled out any kind of eczema and your scaly patch of skin isn’t going away, it may be time to see your doctor. In addition, these patches of skin may bleed or ooze and then crust back over repeatedly.

A Scabbing Sore

Skin cancer can take many different forms, and sometimes it manifests as a sore that bleeds or oozes pus and scabs over. Once it heals, the sore will open again and the cycle will continue. If you have a sore on your body, make sure you keep a close eye on it. This is especially important if you notice that your sore is following this cycle of bleeding, scabbing, healing, and returning. You may need a biopsy to confirm cancerous tissue.

Unusual Moles

When it comes to skin cancer, melanoma is probably one of the most dangerous. It can spread aggressively to other organs if it’s not caught and treated early on. That’s why it’s crucial to understand the early signs of this type of skin cancer. Fortunately, there’s one simple rule that can help: the ABCDE rule. When you’re examining moles on your body, use this rule to look for the following features.

Asymmetry – Normal moles will be symmetrical in shape. If you notice a mole that has an odd shape or that is not symmetrical, it could be time to schedule a skin cancer screening.

Border – An ordinary mole will have a border that is clean and easy to define. When you see moles that have jagged, blurred, or hard-to-define borders, monitor them closely. This could be a sign of cancerous cell growth.

Color – The moles on your body should all be roughly the same color — typically some shade of tan or brown. Any mole that’s an unusual color like red, white, black, or blue should be cause for concern. In addition, any mole with inconsistent coloration within should be looked at by your doctor.

Diameter – Most benign moles are quite small. If a mole is about the size of a pencil eraser or larger, it’s a good idea to have it looked at by your doctor during a skin cancer screening.

Evolving – Moles should stay the same throughout your life. Any change at all needs to be monitored closely. Specifically, any change in color, size, shape, or texture should be noted and looked at by a doctor.

Understanding the early signs of skin cancer and when to contact your doctor are incredibly important to ensure effective treatment and diagnosis. If you have questions or want to set up a skin cancer screening, contact SE Dermatology Specialists today.

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