November 5, 2018

How Early Detection of Skin Cancer Can Save Lives

Dr Rahma Targett
November 5, 2018
Family photo for ACM blog

It is incredibly hard to believe that one of the biggest killers in Australia is, in fact, cancer. The horrific truth is that around 2000 Australians die of skin cancer every year, to put this into perspective, roughly 1,500 people die in car accidents per year. Essentially, in Australia, more people are likely to lose their lives as a result of cancer than as a result of a traffic accident. If this statistic isn’t frightening enough, two in three Australians are diagnosed with skin cancer before the age of 70, and it has been forecasted that over 44000 Australians will be diagnosed with a melanoma within the next three years. Luckily, advancements are always being made and the treatments available are better than ever. However, these treatments can only help if the melanoma is caught early enough; the sooner you notice a problem, the higher your survival rate will be. Keep reading to understand how early detection of skin cancer can save lives.

With skin cancer being so common in Australia, many people have been affected, either directly or indirectly by the disease. But lots of people still don’t really understand what it is. Similar to any cancer, skin cancer is the abnormal growth of cells; in this case skin cells. Unrepaired damage to cells can cause mutilations, which leads to these cells rapidly multiplying and causing tumours. There are several factors that can encourage this type of cell activity, the most common being overexposure to the ultraviolet radiation of the sun, or from a tanning bed. In general, the longer this process is left, the worse it will get, this is especially true for aggressive tumours. In order to prevent the cells from multiplying dramatically, it is essential to be aware of what is normal for your skin and go straight to a professional if you notice any changes.

Although many Australians know what skin cancer is, they fail to recognise the symptoms. But identifying early signs of the disease could be the difference between life and death. As with any disease, skin cancer can come in many forms and there are several different types, therefore symptoms can range greatly. However, some of the most common symptoms are as follows:

  • Mole changing in colour or have different colour shades
  • Mole changing in size
  • Mole itching and bleeding
  • Mole changing in shape
  • Formation of red, pale or pearly lumps that are dry and scaly
  • Unusual rashes on the body

In a country with as much exposure to the sun as Australia, it’s really important to properly check your skin on a regular basis. Knowing what signs to look out for is one thing, but knowing how to look for them is another. Although melanomas are most common on parts of the body that get regular exposure to ultraviolet light, there are other types of skin cancer that occur on parts of the body that do not get sun exposure. Due to this, you need to make sure that you are checking every part of your body, including the soles of your feet and between your fingers. The best way to check for any unusual spots on your body is to undress completely and use a mirror to help you check difficult to see areas.

Skin cancer is measured in stages, ranging from stage 1 to stage 5. These stages are a way of gauging how far along the cancer is, what the patient’s survival chances are, and therefore what treatment is necessary. Although skin cancers vary in aggression, as a general rule, the sooner the cancer is found, the lower the stage of its progression will be. As a result of this, the earlier a skin cancer is detected, the higher the survival rate. This is one of the main reasons why early detection in skin cancer saves lives.

It is common knowledge that skin cancer is a serious issue, and not a disease to be taken lightly. So why do so many people avoid checking for unusual marks on their skin, or put off seeing a doctor for a regular checkup? Although the prospect of finding any strange marks on your body is terrifying, it is better to find it early than wait until you become seriously unwell. Finding skin cancer early greatly increases the survival rate and will probably mean that the treatment you undergo will be less intense. Early detection of any form of skin cancer can really mean the difference between surviving the disease or not. Checking your body regularly at home or seeing your doctor for frequent skin assessments only takes a few minutes. This is a small price to pay when the rest of your life depends on it.

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