A basal cell carcinoma (BCC)
usually looks like a raised, smooth, pearly bump
on the sun-exposed skin of the head, neck, or
A squamous cell carcinoma
(SCC) is commonly a well-defined, red, scaling,
thickened patch on sun-exposed skin.
The majority of malignant
melanomas are brown to black pigmented lesions.
Warning signs include change in size, shape, color,
or elevation of a mole. The appearance of a new
mole during adulthood, or new pain, itching, ulceration,
or bleeding of an existing mole should all be
checked by a health-care provider.
The following easy-to-remember
guideline, "ABCD," is useful for identifying
- Asymmetry. One side of
the lesion does not look like the other.
- Border irregularity. Margins
may be notched or irregular.
- Color. Melanomas are often
a mixture of black, tan, brown, blue, red, or
- Diameter. Cancerous lesions
are usually larger than 6 mm across (about the
size of a pencil eraser), but any change in
size may be significant.
people, especially those who have fair
coloring or have had extensive sun exposure, should
periodically check their entire body for suggestive
moles and lesions.
Examinations and tests
If you have a worrisome mole
or other lesion, a dermatologist will examine
the entire skin surface. A sample of skin (biopsy)
will be taken so that the suspicious area of skin
can be examined under a microscope.
A biopsy can almost always
be done in a dermatologist's clinic. If a biopsy
shows that you have malignant melanoma, you will
probably undergo further blood tests, a chest
X-ray and other tests as needed.
Treatment of skin cancer
Treatment for basal cell
carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma is straightforward.
Usually, surgical removal of the lesion is adequate.
Small lesions may be removed through a variety
of techniques, including simple excision (cutting
it away), electrodesiccation and curettage (burning
the tissue with an electric needle), and cryosurgery
(freezing the area with liquid nitrogen). Larger
tumors, lesions in high-risk locations, recurrent
tumors, and lesions in cosmetically sensitive
areas are removed by Mohs micrographic surgery.
The surgeon carefully removes tissue, layer by
layer, until cancer-free tissue is reached. When
treated properly, the cure rate for both basal
cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma
(SCC) approaches 95%.
Malignant melanoma, however,
may require several treatment methods, including
surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Because
of the complexity of treatment decisions, patients
with malignant melanoma may benefit from the combined
expertise of a dermatologist, a cancer surgeon,
and an oncologist.
"Turn your face
to the sun and the shadows fall behind you. Turn
your worries and pain over to God." - Dr