Women's Health Matters

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Diagnosis

Nonmelanoma skin cancer can usually be cured if it is found early. You should check your skin about once a month in front of a full-length mirror. Use a hand-held mirror for areas that are hard to see, or ask a partner for help. Make note of the pattern of moles, freckles and other marks on your skin so that you'll notice any changes. Talk to your doctor if you notice anything that concerns you.

The key warning signs are:

  • a spot that changes in colour or shape
  • a new growth
  • a spot or bump that's getting larger
  • a sore that doesn't heal

If your doctor suspects that you have skin cancer, one or more methods will be used to find out if the disease is present.

First, your doctor will take your medical history. The doctor will ask when the mark on your skin first appeared, and whether the mark has changed in size or appearance.

The size, shape, colour and texture of the mark will be noted as well as whether it is bleeding or scaling. The rest of your body may be checked for spots and moles that may be cancerous.

If your doctor suspects nonmelanoma skin cancer, he or she will often take a skin biopsy to confirm this suspicion, which will be examined under a microscope. Different methods can be used for doing the skin biopsy. The method used depends on:

  • the type of nonmelanoma skin cancer it appears to be
  • where it is on the body
  • the size of the affected area

Skin cancers are highly curable and, when caught early, are rarely fatal. It is difficult to gather statistics on nonmelanoma skin cancer because it affects so many people and is usually treated successfully. It is estimated though that the five-year survival rate for people with basal cell carcinoma is greater than 99 percent and the survival rate for patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the skin is greater than 95 percent. Very few (less than one-tenth of a percent) of basal cell carcinomas spread to the lymph nodes or distant organs. For patients whose nonmelanoma skin cancer has spread, the survival rate is lower.

 

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Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer

Medical description

Diagnosis

Follow-up

Treatment

Prevention

Our program

  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital