Just discovered an unusual spot or outgrowth on your skin and have a feeling of dread with the suspicion that it might be skin cancer? Well, it is unfair to label any abnormality in the natural skin texture blindly as skin cancer without having a little knowledge about what skin cancer looks like and in what way, shape, or form it might manifest itself in a particular area of your skin.
What is a Skin Cancer?
Before we jump into the details about skin cancer, let us be clear about what exactly a "cancer" is? In simple words, cancer is an abnormal or uncontrolled growth of cells anywhere in the body. So, when this irregular and spontaneous multiplication of cells occurs in the cells of our skin, you call it a "skin cancer." You would have heard the word "melanoma." Well, that is also a type of skin cancer but an aggressive one. Sometimes a melanoma can cause death.
Early detection Matters a Lot
Although it is not okay to be obsessed with worrying about every small change in the skin, it is true that examining your skin may help you to identify any cancerous area at an early stage.
An earlier detection is a blessing because most anticancer treatments work best at an early stage as compared to a skin cancer identified at a late stage when the situation has become too complicated. You might find it confusing, but a skin cancer sometimes may not even give you the slightest hint of its presence. Yes, in other words, we can say that the area might not present any symptoms. It may be painless as well.
How to self-exam
What might help you make an easy guess for whether the irregular skin area is cancerous or not? The American Melanoma Foundation suggests these four quick observations that you need to make in order to clear your doubt:
Asymmetry: An outgrowth or mole that appears unequal. Half of such an outgrowth is large, and the other half is small. It also differentiates a cancerous mole from a normal, harmless mole that is round and equal if observed carefully.
Border: Check the outline of the abnormal area of your skin. If it has a poorly defined border, then it might be cancerous. Although this alone cannot be considered as detection criteria for skin cancer, it is still a warning sign. A normal skin mole, on the other hand, has a well-defined border or outline.
Color: The color is not the key feature, but along with the above two markers, it may also give you a hint. For example, a black or brown appearance is closer to a melanoma which is one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer.
Diameter: Check the area of spread that the irregular area of skin has occupied. If the outgrowth or mole is not larger than six millimeters, then it might not be considered a problem, but if that exceeds 6mm, then you can suspect a melanoma.
Apart from these, any abnormal growth that you feel is continuously increasing in size or an area of skin that is not healing even after a long duration should alert you. Now, what if you discovered that the all of the observations mentioned above are positive in your case? The first natural response is that you will panic. Well, here is an idea that can help you.
Get a medical diagnosis and early treatment
Visit a primary care physician who might refer you to a dermatologist for a better insight into the matter and to further investigate if the suspected skin area has been affected by skin cancer or if it some other skin disease. Cancer screening, when suggested, might scare a lot of people away. They don't get screened for cancer because they fear that the result may come out to be positive. But, it is the worst idea to let your fear overtake you and delay the diagnosis. Early screening is beneficial in both ways because if the result is negative then it is surely a good news, and if the result is positive, then an initial anticancer treatment will help with a better outcome.
You might also come across another term "mets." Well, that is for "metastasis." It means that a particular sort of melanoma can spread from skin to other underlying structures in the body such as lymph nodes. Another alarming problem with melanoma is that it might relapse after being treated once.
Talking about the prognosis that is the expected time of recovery, you can say that it is not just true for skin cancers but generally with any other disease too. A treatment that is sought early is the best. The more you delay the treatment, the less the chances of recovering are from that particular illness.
If you are undergoing an anti-cancer treatment, it is always a good idea to stay connected with other people who are also experiencing or have experienced the same procedure in life because the treatment duration is long. It will help you stay motivated and continue smoothly throughout the process. A person who is determined to complete his or her treatment and believes that whatever the illness is, it can be treated if the advice of the healthcare provider is adequately followed, is more likely to recover faster than a person who loses hope or is unwilling to cooperate during the treatment sessions.
You would have probably heard this a billion times in your life; prevention is better than cure. Well, the truth is, it really is a fact in the case of skin cancers as well as other terrible skin diseases. Saving yourself from exposure to harmful rays, staying covered, or using any quality products to avoid the adverse effects of sun rays is something you can do to prevent the risk of developing a skin cancer. Maintaining a habit of staying clean and bathing regularly can save you from a lot of infectious skin diseases that might develop to untreatable stages of skin cancers.