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What You Need to Know About Skin Cancer

Most skin cancers can be cured when they are found early and treated properly. The type of treatment you have depends on where the cancer is, how big it is and whether it has spread.

Melanoma occurs when abnormal cells in the skin develop into a tumor that can grow deep in the skin and spread to other parts of the body. It is most often found on areas that have been exposed to the sun, like the arms, legs and face. This is the most serious type of skin cancer, and it has a higher risk of spreading to other parts of the body than the other types of skin cancer.

Nonmelanoma skin cancers include basal cell carcinoma BCC and squamous cell carcinoma SCC. These types of cancer form in the cells that make up the outside layer of the skin, the epidermis. They are less likely to spread than melanoma and can usually be cured when caught and treated early.

People with a history of skin cancer Dr Tina Fang in their family or a personal history of the disease have an increased risk of developing it. People with a weakened immune system also have a higher risk of getting skin cancer, including those who have had organ transplants and those taking drugs to suppress the immune system after receiving radiation for other medical conditions.

Regular self-examination of the skin can help find early signs of melanoma. You should examine all your skin spots, comparing them to other moles and marks on your body. Look for changes in the color, size or shape of a mole. A change may happen over time or it might happen suddenly. If a mole or other mark on your skin changes, have it checked by a doctor right away.

Your doctor can diagnose a skin cancer by looking at it and taking a small sample of tissue for testing in a lab. The test is called a biopsy and helps find out if the abnormal cells are cancer or not.

Your doctor might remove the whole tumor, or just part of it, with a surgery. They might also take nearby lymph nodes for tests to see if the cancer has spread. They might use a method called Mohs surgery. This involves removing layers of tissue, one at a time, and examining each layer under a microscope to check for cancer cells. This technique helps your doctors save as much normal skin as possible. It’s a common treatment for skin cancers that develop near sensitive or cosmetically important areas, like the eyes, ears, lips, scalp, palms of hands or genital area. Your doctor might also treat your skin cancer with other medicines, such as hormones or radiation therapy, if needed. No two cancers are the same, so your treatment will be tailored to you by experts at City of Hope. Our doctors treat cancer every day, giving them the knowledge and experience to help you with the best care.

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