Skin Cancer Frequently Asked Questions

Board-certified dermatologist Jonathan Miller, MD, FAAD has extensive experience treating and diagnosing skin cancer. If you’re concerned you may have skin cancer in the Chattanooga area, contact Uderm today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Miller. Give our office a call at (423) 206-2777 or request an appointment online.

How does skin cancer first appear?

Skin cancers can take on many appearances. It can appear as a mole that has changed in color. It can also appear as a growing or bleeding pink or flesh-colored bump on which had been previously normal skin.

Where does skin cancer usually start?

Skin cancer can appear anywhere on the body but is most commonly found on areas with significant sun exposure and/or sunburns. (I.e., scalp, face, nose, and ears.)

What are the warning signs and symptoms of skin cancer?

Spots that start to bleed along with any unexplained bumps that don’t go away and non-healing sores that last longer than 8 weeks should be evaluated for skin cancer. Any new or preexisting moles that begin to change in size, shape or color should prompt a visit to your dermatologist to rule out a skin cancer.

How do you feel when you have skin cancer?

Generally, a person does not feel any different when they have a skin cancer. If the spot bleeds or is a non-healing sore it could require some type of wound care and/or bandage.

What can be mistaken for skin cancer?

Some types of sunspots, vascular lesions, or benign growths could be mistaken for a skin cancer without a proper diagnosis by your dermatologist.

How long can you have skin cancer without knowing?

If a person is not doing self-skin checks, they could possibly have a skin cancer for months to years without knowing it.

How quickly does skin cancer spread?

The spread of skin cancer is dependent on the type of cancer. The more aggressive types, like melanoma and merkel cell carcinoma, can quickly spread to anywhere in the body in a short amount of time.

Is Skin Cancer painful to touch?

Generally, skin cancer is not painful but some types, such as squamous cell carcinoma, can be tender to the touch.

What does skin cancer look like?

  • Melanoma can look like a brown mole that is changing in size, shape, color, or feel. It can also look like a growing or bleeding pink bump that doesn’t go away.
  • Basal cell carcinoma skin cancer can appear as a pearly pink bump, scaly spot, or non-healing sore.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma skin cancer can appear as a scaly pink spot, bump, or non-healing sore.

What are the types of skin cancer?

  • Melanoma is a dangerous form of skin cancer because it can rapidly spread to other areas inside of the body. It can occur anywhere on the skin, including areas that are usually protected from the sun.
  • Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) – collectively known as “non-melanoma skin cancer” (NMSC).
  • Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare, but aggressive type of cancer that can spread quickly to other parts of the body.
  • There are a number of other, less common skin cancers, including but not limited to atypical fibroxanthoma (superficial pleomorphic sarcoma), mucinous carcinoma, dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans (DFSP), sebaceous carcinoma, and microcystic adnexal carcinoma (MAC).

How is skin cancer diagnosed?

Skin cancer is correctly diagnosed with a biopsy.

How is skin cancer treated?

Treatment for skin cancer depends on many factors, including the type, size and location of a skin cancer. Creams that trigger the immune system to fight off the skin cancer may be used for some early cancers. Other cancers are treated with surgery via curettage (scraping off) or cutting out the skin cancer. If you have a skin cancer, your doctor will help you decide which is the best treatment for you.

What are the stages of skin cancer?

Skin cancer staging depends on the type of tumor. It is typically categorized into stages 0 through 4, and can help determine the extent of cancer in the body. Often used in melanoma, staging is determined based on tumor size, depth, location, and spread of the skin cancer.

When should I see Dr. Miller?

We recommend annual skin examines, but you should come in for evaluation if you have any spots that are changing, bleeding, or non-healing.