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Let’s talk about skin cancer

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What are the typical symptoms of skin cancer?

It’s Skin Cancer Awareness Month throughout May and we wanted to take a moment to highlight some of the stats and symptoms in case they’re helpful to anyone reading. We are not doctors, and all of this information is in the public domain, but if we hope that in sharing it, it could help someone to get a diagnosis a little earlier.

Skin Cancer Awareness cancer symptoms

Skin cancer falls into two broad categories - melanoma and non-melanoma. Melanoma is less common but more dangerous, being more likely to spread. Roughly speaking, its classification depends on where it has formed.

According to Cancer Research, there are around 16,700 new melanoma skin cancer cases in the UK every year. It's the fifth most common cancer in the UK, accounting for 4% of all new cancer cases. It is estimated that melanoma will affect 1 in 27 men and 1 in 40 women in their lifetime.

Symptoms of skin cancer can vary, and it isn't always entirely obvious, so as with all things it's always better to speak to your doctor if you have the slightest cause for concern. When it's caught early, skin cancer is considered highly treatable with localised melanoma having a 99% five year relative survival rate according to Cancer.org.

When it comes to symptoms the NHS says that non-melanoma: "In most cases, cancerous lumps are red and firm and sometimes turn into ulcers, while cancerous patches are usually flat and scaly."

Cancer.org says that melanoma symptoms include: "Spread of pigment from the border of a spot into surrounding skin. Redness or a new swelling beyond the border of the mole. Change in sensation, such as itchiness, tenderness, or pain. Change in the surface of a mole – scaliness, oozing, bleeding, or the appearance of a lump or bump."

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Typical treatments for skin cancer

Everyone’s experience of cancer is different and there’s no such thing as a textbook journey. It will depend on things like the size and type of cancer, where it is, if it’s spread and other factors like your overall health. However, typically a treatment plan for skin cancer in the UK could include one or more of the following according to the NHS:

Surgery

This tends to be an excise of the tumour and some healthy tissue around it to make sure it's been completely removed. If necessary, it can be combined with a skin graft.

If it's felt there's a high risk of the cancer spreading or returning or it's in a delicate area, then another option is Mohs micrographic surgery (MMS). Other options are cryotherapy for early stage cancer.

Anti-cancer creams

Sometimes anti-cancer creams are also used for certain types of non-melanoma skin cancers, but are only recommended when the tumour is contained within the top layer of the skin.

Radiotherapy

If suitable, radiotherapy can sometimes be used if operating is difficult or if cancer covers a large area.

Electrochemotherapy

Electrochemotherapy is a possible treatment for non-melanoma skin cancer if surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy have not worked. It involves short, powerful pulses of electricity are then directed to the tumour.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is used to treat advanced melanoma, helping the body's immune system find and kill melanoma cells.

Spa treatments and your cancer journey

All cancer treatments have their side effects that doctors will be able to offer advice on. From our perspective, spas are certainly not going to fix all problems, but with properly trained spa therapists and the right products, they can help to ease some side effects of cancer treatments and to provide support on your cancer journey. For example, the right type of massage has been shown to help ease pain, improve mood and help with sleeplessness. Meanwhile, products from brands like Jennifer Young help to ease some of the skincare side effects of cancer treatment.

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If you would like to find out more about spas where therapists are trained to provide the best support on your cancer journey, you can follow the link to our Safe Hands for Cancer experiences, or read more articles on this blog.

Read more about cancer support in UK spas

Written by
Bonnie Friend
“A journalist by trade, Bonnie is the Editor for Spabreaks.com. Keen to spread the message on accessible wellbeing and a spa experience for all, she thinks green smoothies are somewhat overrated and her favourite spa treatment is an Elemis Couture Technology facial.”
See all my posts

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