Symptoms of Non Melanoma
Thanks to widespread public health campaigns people are becoming increasingly switched on when it comes to spotting the signs and symptoms of the most serious form of skin cancer - melanoma.
But whilst many people now associate skin cancer with moles and a change in their shape and color (possible signs of melanoma), there's still a lack of awareness about the symptoms of non melanoma. Even though most non melanomas are highly curable, it is still important that people are aware of the symptoms and what to look out for as in very rare cases (about 1%) they can spread to other organs of the body.
Certainly in the early days of this very slow developing type of skin cancer, it can be difficult to distinguish between what might be a non melanoma and another type of less serious skin lesion.
BCC and SCC Symptoms and Signs
Non melanomas include the very common basal cell cancer (BCC) and squamous cell cancer (SCC). They usually appear on areas most exposed to the sun such as the hands, face, neck and arms.
Basal cell cancers are normally be divided into three types. Nodular BCCs appear as small pearly translucent lumps. They are normally very firm and dome shaped and if you look closely usually a network of tiny blood vessels can be seen over the top and around the affected area. Sometimes the lumps can ulcerate and bleed, resembling a spot that won't heal.
Infiltrating basal cell cancers are quite difficult to recognize because they can quite easily be mistaken for a patch of eczema. This type of cancer usually looks like an area of small lumpy scar tissue which may be slightly thickened. The thing to remember is that if you see something like this on areas of skin exposed to the sun and there is no reason for a scar like lesion to be there, get it checked out. These cancers can penetrate quite deeply.
Superficial BCCs look like an area of red scaly eczema or dermatitis. They gradually spread outwards and, just like eczema, can bleed when being rubbed. They can be difficult to diagnose because they look so like other skin conditions but if left untreated they can become very widespread and in some cases disfiguring.
Squamous cell cancer is also quite difficult to diagnose. In its early stages it can appear as a red, scaly flat lesion closely resembling eczema. However as it develops it typically becomes a small lump on the skin which may have a hard or crusted top like a spot.
These cancers are usually found on the face, ears, hands and lower legs and if left untreated they can bleed and ulcerate. They also increase in size far quicker than BCCs. Although, like basal cell cancers, the cure rate for squamous cell cancers is very high at around 98%, they are particularly dangerous and can spread when they appear on the lips. A crusty, ulcerated area on the lips, which doesn't heal within a month, should be checked by a doctor and removed immediately if a non melanoma is diagnosed.