Can basal and squamous cell skin cancers be found early?
Basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers can be found early. As part of a routine cancer-related checkup, your health care professional should check your skin carefully.
You can also play an important role in finding skin cancer early. It’s important to check all over your skin, preferably once a month. Self-exams are best done in a well-lit room in front of a full-length mirror. Use a hand-held mirror for areas that are hard to see. Learn the patterns of moles, blemishes, freckles, and other marks on your skin so that you’ll notice any changes.
All areas should be examined, including your palms and soles, scalp, ears, nails, and your back. (For a more thorough description of a skin self-exam, see our document, Skin Cancer: Prevention and Early Detection and the booklet Why You Should Know About Melanoma.) Friends and family members can also help you with these exams, especially for those hard-to-see areas, such as your scalp and back. Be sure to show your doctor any areas that concern you and ask your doctor to look at areas that may be hard for you to see.
Spots on the skin that are new or changing in size, shape, or color should be seen by a doctor promptly. Any unusual sore, lump, blemish, marking, or change in the way an area of the skin looks or feels may be a sign of skin cancer or a warning that it might occur. The skin might become scaly or crusty or begin oozing or bleeding. It may feel itchy, tender, or painful. Redness and swelling may develop.
Basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers can look like a variety of marks on the skin. The key warning signs are a new growth, a spot or bump that's getting larger over time, or a sore that doesn't heal within a couple of months. (See the next section, “How are basal and squamous cell skin cancers diagnosed?” for a more detailed description of what to look for.)
Last Medical Review: 09/20/2012
Last Revised: 01/17/2013