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Recognizing and Treating Skin Cancer

Female cancer survivor in black shirt smilingWith 1 in 5 Americans developing skin cancer in their lifetime, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer and accounts for more diagnoses in the US each year than all other types of cancer combined.

There are several different types of skin cancer – most of which are treatable, especially when caught early. Our cancer care team is here to offer compassionate care and make sure that your skin cancer is thoroughly checked and treated, and you are able to get back to your life.

If you have an area of concern on your skin, contact your primary care provider or call our Cancer Care team at 740-687-6900.

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Causes & Risks

The biggest factor that increases your chances of developing skin cancer is exposure to UV rays from sunlight or tanning beds. You are more susceptible to skin cancer if you have a fair complexion – fair skin, freckling or light color hair.

Additional factors that increase your skin cancer risk include:

  •  Tobacco use
  •  Gender – Skin cancer is more common in males.
  •  Age – Those who are over age 55 have a higher risk.
  •  Previous skin cancer occurrences
  •  Exposure to chemicals that damage your skin
  •  Exposure to radiation
  •  Scarred or damaged skin

The best thing you can do to prevent skin cancer is to protect your skin from UV rays. If you have any areas of your skin you are concerned about, contact your healthcare provider.

Female cancer survivor with hat sitting

Preventing Skin Cancer

There are easy ways for you to lower your risk of skin cancer.

  •  Apply Sunscreen

    Choose a broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Use a water-resistant version if you will be swimming or sweating. Reapply every two hours.

  •  Wear Sunglasses

    Protect your eyes and the surrounding skin by looking for sunglasses with a “Meets ANSI UV Requirements” label.

  •  Wear a Hat

    Wear a hat to protect your face, ears, neck and scalp – common areas where skin cancer occurs. Choose a hat with a 2- to 3-inch brim for maximum protection.

  •  Cover Up

    Wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants or skirt to protect your skin. Dark, tightly-woven or UV-treated fabrics are best.

  •  Stay In the Shade

    Keep your skin out of the sun – especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are the strongest.

  •  Avoid Tanning

    Just like the sun, tanning beds give off UVA and UVB rays that can damage your skin. Avoid tanning beds, sun lamps and prolonged sun exposure.

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Symptoms

The symptoms of skin cancer are most commonly noticed as changes in a spot on the skin – appearance of a new mole or birth mark; changes in size, shape or color; appearance different from all other skin spots. It’s important that you do a monthly self-exam and take note of any changes in the spots on your skin. If you notice any of the signs below, contact your healthcare provider.

To aid in identifying possible skin cancer, use the ABCDE rule:

  •  Asymmetry – one half of the spot does not match the other half
  •  Border – uneven, ragged or blurred edges
  •  Color – color changes throughout the spot – could be shades of brown, black, pink, red or white
  •  Diameter – larger than 6mm across (about the size of a pencil eraser)
  •  Evolving – changes in size, shape or color

Additional warning signs include: sore that doesn’t heal; spread of color from spot into surrounding skin; redness or swelling past the edge of a mole; new irritation, such as tenderness, pain or itchiness; change in mole’s appearance: scaliness, oozing, bleeding or appearance of raised lump or bump.

There are exceptions to every rule. If you notice changes in a spot on your skin, sores that don’t heal or have any area of concern, talk to your healthcare provider.

Female cancer survivor with her team of providers

Treatments

Skin cancer is most commonly diagnosed using a skin biopsy, which removes a small piece of tissue from the area in question to check for cancer cells. If you are diagnosed with skin cancer, additional tests may be performed to determine whether the cancer has spread to other areas of your body.

The most common treatment for skin cancer is surgery. Your cancer care team will discuss your treatments options with you, taking into consideration the type and location of your skin cancer, your age and your overall health.

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Resources

Fairfield Medical Center and our Cancer Resource Center provide a vast array of support programs, resources and care for our patients with cancer. These programs and resources can help you and your family address issues that you may face as a result of your cancer diagnosis or treatment.


Fairfield Medical Cancer Resource Center

The Fairfield Medical Cancer Resource Center is open to any cancer patient and their support people. Educational classes, support services and retail products are offered to reduce stress and ease recovery and coping processes. The center is staffed Monday through Friday (or by appointment) by an FMC coordinator and volunteers, many of whom are cancer survivors.


Financial Support

There are a variety of financial resources available to those who qualify, including the Fairfield Medical Center Foundation and TWIGS One Cancer Care Fund. Members of your oncology team will work collaboratively with financial aid personnel to determine what individualized assistance is available to you.


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