How To Spot Skin Cancer: The Symptoms

Around 9 in 10 people that develop non-melanoma skin cancer make a full recovery. The recovery rates are high thanks both to the fact that medical treatments have improved significantly but also because the symptoms make it easy to spot.

Reducing the risk of developing skin cancer is possible by limiting your exposure to the sun and taking the necessary precautions, but because the main cause of the cancer is sunlight it’s practically impossible to guarantee you won’t be affected by it in the future. However, by looking out for the signs you can make sure that if you do develop the cancer you can treat it quickly.

The two most common types of non-melanoma skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, which account for 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers in the UK. The different conditions have their own symptoms, but they are both characterised by problems on the skin that do not heal.

Basal cell carcinoma symptoms
A person that is developing basal cell carcinoma will notice a bump or discoloured patch on their skin. The bump has a ‘waxy’ appearance and is a pearly white colour. In some cases blood vessels may also be visible. The bump can be anywhere, but most commonly it is found on skin that has been exposed to sun such as the face or neck.

Another sign that you have basal cell carcinoma is a patch of discoloured skin, which is scaly and flat. The patch may have a brown or flesh-coloured appearance and usually grows to between 4 and 6 inches. Again, just like the bumps these can occur anywhere on the body, but they are most commonly found on the chest or back. If you have a bump that repeatedly bleeds and then crusts over, or a red flat spot that bleeds for no reason these may also be signs of basal cell carcinoma.

Squamous cell carcinoma
The second most common type of non-melanoma skin cancer is squamous cell carcinoma, and it accounts for about 1 in 10 cases. There are two main symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma. The first is scab-like lesions that are scaly, flat and crusted, and the second is firm red lumps; neither the lumps nor the lesions heal.

Just like the basal cell carcinoma symptoms, the lumps and lesions that are caused by squamous cell carcinoma can appear anywhere on the skin. While they are most commonly found on places that have been exposed to the sun such as the forehead, nose, ears, lower lip and hands, they can also be found in the mouth or anus and on genitals.

What to do if you have symptoms
The key point about the symptoms for both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma is that the bumps, lumps, lesions and patchy skin don’t ever heal. Medical professionals generally agree that if you have these symptoms and after 14 days they do not show signs of healing, you should seek medical advice immediately so your condition can be assessed and you can begin receiving treatment if necessary. The earlier these types of skin cancer are diagnosed and treated, the better your chances of recovery are.

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