If you’re like most people, you love the sun. On a breezy summer’s day, nothing feels better than the sun’s warm rays on your skin. While the sun helps plants grow and sustains life on Earth, it can also damage your skin and cause skin cancer, especially if you don’t always wear sunscreen or take other preventative measures.
During UV Awareness Month, we wanted to give you some practical tips for detecting skin cancer, and provide some insight on the diagnostic process. However, it is important to remember that prevention is the best medicine. Be sure to take important preventative steps before going outside, including wearing sunscreen, sunglasses, and other protective gear, and reapplying sunscreen as advised on the bottle. (This is only a short list of the preventative measures you can take).
The first step in diagnosing skin cancer is a visual exam. The American Cancer Society recommends performing a self exam each month, along with your yearly physical. During an annual visit, your doctor will check you over for any suspicious spots, including those that are new, bleeding, scaling, or that have changed size, shape, color or texture. If they find something out of the ordinary, they’ll also check nearby lymph nodes to look for any swelling or irregularity. If you’re working with your dermatologist, they may also use a special magnifying glass to closely examine the spot, and they may even remove the spot completely.
There are two common tests used to test growths for skin cancer. During a biopsy, your doctor will numb the area before removing a sample of the tissue. In most cases, they will take the entire thing in a process known as excisional biopsy. While there are other types of biopsies, such as a shave or punch biopsy, the most effective way to treat the area is typically the excisional biopsy.
The most common form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma, is a localized cancer and doesn’t spread to other parts of the body. However, Melanoma and Merkel cell carcinoma are more likely to spread, so they require imaging to determine the extent of the disease and uncover the best treatment option. Your physician may order an MRI, CT Scan or X-ray to get a better picture of whether or not the cancer has spread to any other organs or bones. These procedures are all painless and non-invasive; however, if the results show the cancer has spread, a deeper, more invasive biopsy may be required.
Skin Cancer Treatment
Treatment for skin cancer varies on a case-by-case basis, but can include radiation, chemotherapy, surgery, topical treatments, immunotherapy and more. Click here to learn more about treatment options.
Skin Cancer Detection at Townsen Memorial
At Townsen Memorial, our family of hospitals are equipped with the latest in medical imaging technology. If you suspect you may have skin cancer, or have uncovered a suspicious mole or skin tag, get in touch with your primary care physician as soon as possible. They’ll be able to do an initial exam and refer you for imaging tests if necessary. While there is no definitive cure for cancer, early detection and treatment are crucial for improved survival rates.
We strive to provide the best patient experience across all Townsen Memorial affiliated sites. Our standard of high-quality care starts at our Emergency Room and carries on through our Imaging Centers, Surgery Centers, and through our Hospital. Our medical sites are located in Houston, TX and the surrounding areas, to provide the best care to patients in and around Harris County. To learn more, visit townsenmemorial.com or call 1-877-494-9487.