Skin Cancer Symptoms

Often, skin cancers do not cause bothersome symptoms until they have grown quite large. However, it may be possible to see or feel skin cancers in their early stages.

Skin cancer symptoms may differ by skin cancer type:

  • Basal cell carcinomas.
    These vary, ranging from flat, firm, pale areas to open sores that either don’t heal or keep coming back.
  • Squamous cell carcinomas.
    This type of skin cancer may appear as round or scaly red patches that might crust or bleed, or as raised or wart-like growths.
  • Melanoma skin cancers.
    The most important warning sign of melanoma Is a new spot on the skin, or a spot that is changing in size, shape or color. Another warning sign is a spot that looks different from the other spots on the skin.

Remember the ABCDE Rule for Melanoma

The ABCDE rule is a useful guide to the common signs of melanoma:

  • Asymmetry: For example, one half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
  • Border: The edges of the spot are irregular or blurred.
  • Color: The color varies and may include different shades of brown or black, or even patches of pink, red, white or blue.
  • Diameter: The spot is larger than the size of pencil eraser.
  • Evolving: The spot is changing in size, shape or color.

Early recognition of possible melanoma skin cancer symptoms can result in earlier diagnosis, as well as more treatment options and a higher likelihood of cure.

Skin Self-Examination

To find skin cancer early, when it is most treatable, it is important to examine your skin on a regular basis. Regular skin self-examination allows you to become familiar with moles and other skin conditions, so you can better identify any changes or potential early skin cancer symptoms.

To perform a skin self-exam, you’ll need a bright light, a full-length mirror, hand mirror and a hair dryer. You’ll want to look for and keep track of freckles, moles, birthmarks, bumps, sores, scabs and scaly patches:

  • Study your face in front of the mirror, paying special attention to your nose, mouth, lips and ears (both front and back).

  • Check your scalp with a hard mirror. You can use the hair dryer to lift sections of your hair.

  • Look at your fingernails, fingers, palms and forearms (both front and back).

  • Check your upper arms, including your underarms.

  • Examine your neck, chest and torso. Women should check under their breasts, as well.

  • Turn your back to the full-length mirror and use the hand mirror to look at the reflection of the back of your neck, shoulders and upper back. Then, look at your lower back, buttocks and the back of your legs. Ask someone to be your second set of eyes.

  • Sit down and use the hand mirror to examine your genitals. Then, check your legs, particularly the ankles, tops and soles of your feet, and between the toes.

The American Cancer Society recommends performing a skin self-exam once a month. If you notice any spots on your skin that are new or changing in size, shape and color, tell your healthcare provider. Be sure to show your healthcare provider any areas that concern you.

Skin Cancer Screenings

The Melanoma Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center regularly holds skin screening programs and offers a range of services to help you learn how to reduce your cancer risk, recognize possible skin cancer symptoms or detect skin cancer at its most treatable stage.

To find out about our next scheduled screening or to learn more about our program, please call Moira Davis, our Nurse Navigator, at (973) 322-6506.

The Melanoma Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center

The Melanoma Center offers a multidisciplinary approach to caring for individuals with melanoma. Our team consists of dermatologists, surgical oncologists, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists, as well as a dedicated nurse navigator to assist with appointment scheduling and coordination. We are focused on providing patients with high-quality screening and treatment, as well as access to clinical trials.