Skin cancer: Early detection and treatment options

Skin cancer, or melanoma, is the most common type of cancer in the world. However, the physical signs of skin cancer often become visible on the surface of the skin in early stages of the disease. If detected early, skin cancer can be successfully treated in most cases.

Skin cancers are grouped into two categories: melanoma and nonmelanoma. Melanoma progresses much faster than nonmelanomas and can potentially spread beneath the skin to other parts of the body. Although most nonmelanomas progress slowly, it is still important to speak to your doctor about any abnormal changes on your skin.

Signs and symptoms of skin cancer

Melanoma:

  • Any change in an existing mole
  • Dark, multicolored spot with irregular borders
  • A mole or spot that bleeds and scabs over
  • A cluster of shiny, firm bumps
  • A mole larger than a pencil eraser

Nonmelanomas (Basal cell carcinoma)

  • A flesh-colored bump
  • A reddish or dark patch of skin
  • An oval bump that develops into a bleeding ulcer

Nonmelanomas (Squamous cell carcinoma)

  • A firm, red, wart-like bump that grows slowly
  • A flat spot that develops into a bleeding sore

Treatment options for skin cancer

  • Surgery to remove the entire malignant spot
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Photodynamic therapy—using laser light to stop cancer cells