Skin cancer usually begins where you can see it; therefore, it is actually one of the easiest cancers to find.
Skin cancer can develop anywhere on your skin – from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. Even if the area never sees the light of day, it is possible to develop skin cancer there.
You can also get skin cancer in areas that you never thought you could get it. Skin cancer can begin under a toenail or fingernail, on your genitals, inside your mouth, or on a lip.
You can find skin cancer on your body
The best way to find skin cancer is to examine your body. When checking, you want to look at each spot on your skin. And you want to check everywhere — from your scalp (parting your hair to check your entire scalp) to the spaces between your toes and the bottoms of your feet.
If at all possible it is good to have another person to help examine your body. There are many places that you can’t see for yourself. Your partner can examine hard-to-see areas like your scalp and back.
If you check your skin on a regular basis you will be able to see if spots are changing. Checking monthly can be beneficial. If you have had skin cancer, your dermatologist can tell you how often you should check your skin.
What skin cancer looks like
Skin cancer appears on the body in so many different ways. It can look like: a changing mole or mole that looks a lot different from your other moles, dome-shaped growth, scaly patch, non-healing sore or sore that heals and returns, or a brown/black streak under a nail.
It can also show up in other ways. You don’t have to remember a long list. It is time to see a dermatologist if you notice a spot on your skin that: differs from the others, changes, itches, or bleeds.
To make it easy for you to check your skin, the AAD created the Body Mole Map. You’ll find everything you need to know on a single page. Illustrations show you how to examine your skin and what to look for. There’s even a place to record what your spots look like.
You can feel well and still have skin cancer
Most people who find a suspicious spot on their skin or streak beneath a nail feel just fine. They don’t have any pain and they don’t feel ill. The only difference they notice is the suspicious-looking spot. That spot doesn’t have to itch, bleed, or feel painful. Although, skin cancer sometimes does.
See a suspicious spot, see a dermatologist
If you find a spot on your skin that looks suspicious it could be skin cancer and it’s time to see a dermatologist. Found early, skin cancer is highly treatable. Often a dermatologist can treat an early skin cancer by removing the cancer and a bit of normal-looking skin. If skin cancer has time to grow, treatment becomes more difficult.
Skin cancer diagnosis always requires a skin biopsy
When you see a dermatologist because you’ve found a spot that might be skin cancer, your dermatologist will examine the spot.
If the dermatologist determines that the spot looks like it could be a skin cancer, he/she will remove it all or part of it. This can easily be done during your appointment. The procedure that your dermatologist uses to remove the spot is called a skin biopsy.
Having a skin biopsy is the only way to know if you have skin cancer or not. There’s no other way to know for sure.
What your dermatologist removes will be looked at under a microscope. The doctor who examines the removed skin will look for cancer cells. If cancer cells are found, your biopsy report will tell you what type of skin cancer cells were found. When cancer cells aren’t found, your biopsy report will explain what was seen under the microscope.
If you find a suspicious spot, seeing a dermatologist can give you peace of mind. Dermatologists are experts in caring for the skin and have more experience diagnosing skin cancer than any other doctor. Don’t wait until it is too late. If you see something that just doesn’t look right to you or has changed since the last time you looked at it, find a dermatologist right away!