How do you avoid a diagnosis that affects over two million Americans a year? Learn to spot the warning signs of skin cancer and potentially save yourself from such a debilitating disease. When skin cancer is caught in it’s earliest stages the survival rate is much higher. There are people out there, like Tawny Willoughby, who are sharing their stories to educate other on the effects tanning can have. At age 21 Willoughby was diagnosed with skin cancer. She is documenting her journey battling back against skin cancer by posting graphic photos to social media to share the dangers of overexposure to UV rays and tanning beds. For more on her story visit USA Today.
Unfortunately, in some extreme cases skin cancer can cause disfigurement and even death. The number of cases is rising, and the best way to stop it is to know what to look for. See your physician at least once a year for a skin exam, and be sure to perform self-exams monthly. Teach your children how to perform these self-exams too – teaching them at an early age is another way you can advocate for sun safety. You are your best defense against skin cancer. Know your body, and be on the lookout for any changes in your skin as it could be an early warning sign of skin cancer.
Concerned about how to perform a self-exam? Don’t know where to start? Many people have their physician do a full-body exam first. They can point out any existing freckles and moles that are normal, and tell you if anything looks serious or not. A self-exam should take no longer than 10 minutes, and the Skin Cancer Foundation has step-by-step instructions, which can be found here.
There are several types of skin cancer, each with different appearances, so it is important to know what the early warning signs for each look like. During your self-exams note any changes in your skin, and remember – just because it doesn’t hurt doesn’t mean it should be ignored. Skin cancer is sometimes silent, but just as deadly.
We’ve come up with a small list of some of the warning signs that you should be on the lookout for. While this list isn’t everything, it gives you a good idea of what you’re looking for and when you should call a physician. If you have a feeling that something isn’t right your best bet is to go with your gut instinct. You are rarely wrong when you do that.
Here are some signs to watch out for:
- A skin growth that increases in size and appears pearly, translucent, tan, brown, black, or multicolored
- A mole, birthmark, beauty mark, or any brown spot that:
- Changes color
- Increases in size or thickness
- Changes in texture
- Is irregular in outline
- Is bigger than 6mm or 1/4″, the size of a pencil eraser
- Appears after age 21
- A spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab, erode, or bleed
- An open sore that does not heal within three weeks
Contact University Cancer Centers to schedule your examination with Dr Mark D’Andrea. Offices are conveniently located in Houston, Pasadena, Brenham, Kingwood, El Campo and Huntsville.