I think I might have skin cancer

There is a tendency to think that being vigilant about skin cancer means only keeping an eye on our moles. However, moles are just one type of skin cancer (melanoma) and we need to be aware of others: basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers, together known as non-melanoma skin cancer. There are many types of skin cancer; it may look like a spot or sore that has not healed within four weeks, or one that is scabbed, bleeds itches or hurts for a more than a month. Some skin cancers initially appear as pink lumps that slowly grow, others as red scaly patches. If you are concerned about an abnormal patch on your skin, you should seek your GP’s advice immediately. It is most likely nothing to be worried about, but early diagnosis improves the outcome.

How common is skin cancer?

Non-melanoma skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, with around 102,000 cases diagnosed in the UK each year. It does not receive as much coverage as other common cancers because it is, on the whole, easy to treat and cure.

How is it diagnosed?

If your GP is concerned about your symptoms, they will refer you to a specialist who most probably will take a sample of skin (a biopsy); the sample is then sent to the lab for examination under a microscope. If you do not wish to wait for this appointment, you can attend a private clinic, such as that of Milton Keynes plastic surgeon Mr Ghosh. Depending on the location and size of the affected area, the biopsy will be carried out under a local anaesthetic; during an excisional biopsy, a procedure regularly performed in his Milton Keynes skin clinic, Mr Ghosh will use a surgical knife to remove the whole of the abnormal area along with a border of healthy tissue, ensuring that no potentially cancerous cells have been left behind.

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