How to spot a skin cancer
Skin cancers don’t all look the same, but there are signs to look out for, including:
- a spot that looks and feels different from other spots on your skin
- a spot that has changed size, shape, colour or texture
- a sore that doesn’t heal within a few weeks
- a sore that is itchy or bleeds.
Check your skin for changes regularly. There is no set guideline on how often to check for skin cancer, but getting to know your own skin will help you notice any new or changing spots. If you have previously had a skin cancer or are at greater risk of developing skin cancer, ask your doctor how often you should check your skin.
In a room with good light, undress completely and use a full-length mirror to check your whole body. To check areas that are difficult to see, use a handheld mirror or ask someone to help you.
If you notice any changes to your skin, make an appointment with your general practitioner (GP) or dermatologist straightaway. You will have a better outcome if the skin cancer is found and treated early. For more information on checking your skin, visit Sunsmart.
Can smartphone apps help detect skin cancer?
Some smartphone apps let you photograph your skin at regular intervals and compare the photos to check for changes. These apps may be a way to record any spot you are worried about or remind you to check your skin.
However, research shows apps cannot reliably detect skin cancer and should not replace a visit to your GP or dermatologist. If you notice a spot that causes you concern, make an appointment with your doctor straightaway.
Podcast for people affected by cancer
A/Prof Stephen Shumack, Dermatologist, Royal North Shore Hospital and The University of Sydney, NSW; Dr Margaret Chua, Radiation Oncologist, Head of Radiation Oncology, Skin and Melanoma, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; John Clements, Consumer; Aoife Conway, Skin Lead and Radiation Oncology Nurse, GenesisCare, Mater Hospital, NSW; Sandra Donaldson, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Kath Lockier, Consumer; Dr Isabel Gonzalez Matheus, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Principal House Officer, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD; A/Prof Andrew Miller, Dermatologist, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Dr Helena Rosengren, Chair Research Committee, Skin Cancer College of Australasia, and Medical Director, Skin Repair Skin Cancer Clinic, QLD; Dr Michael Wagels, Staff Specialist Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon, Princess Alexandra Hospital and Surgical Treatment and Rehabilitation Service, and Senior Lecturer, The University of Queensland, QLD; David Woods, Consumer.
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