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Skin Cancer (cont.)

When to Seek Medical Care

Many people, especially those who have fair coloring or have had extensive sun exposure, should periodically check their entire body for suggestive moles and lesions.

Have your primary health-care provider or a skin specialist (dermatologist) check any moles or spots that concern you.

See your health-care provider to check your skin if you notice any changes in the size, shape, color, or texture of pigmented areas (such as darker areas of skin or moles).

If you have skin cancer, your skin specialist (dermatologist) or cancer specialist (oncologist) will talk to you about symptoms of metastatic disease that might require care in a hospital.

Exams and Tests

If you have a worrisome mole or other lesion, your primary-care provider will probably refer you to a dermatologist. The dermatologist will examine any moles in question and, in many cases, the entire skin surface.

  • Any lesions that are difficult to identify, or are thought to be skin cancer, may then be checked.
  • A sample of skin (biopsy) will be taken so that the suspicious area of skin can be examined under a microscope.
  • A biopsy can almost always be done in the dermatologist's office.

If a biopsy shows that you have malignant melanoma, you will probably undergo further testing to determine the extent of spread of the disease, if any. This may involve blood tests, a chest X-ray, and other tests as needed.

Skin Cancer Treatment

Patient Comments

Treatment for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma is straightforward. Usually, surgical removal of the lesion is adequate. Malignant melanoma, however, may require several treatment methods, including surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy or immunotherapy or both. Because of the complexity of treatment decisions, people with malignant melanoma may benefit from the combined expertise of the dermatologist, a cancer surgeon, and a medical oncologist.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/11/2014
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