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Does Skin Cancer Hurt? + Signs & Prevention

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People often wonder whether skin cancer hurts. Skin cancers do not normally hurt to touch. Unlike some types of cancers which can cause symptoms such as physical pain, usually the first indication of skin cancer is simply a change in the appearance of your skin. 

With the absence of pain in your body to alert you to a problem, it is important to understand the different types of skin cancer and how they can present themselves.

Key Takeaways

  • Skin cancers are not usually painful and often present no symptoms  
  • The first warning sign of skin cancer is normally visual 
  • Regular skin checks are essential for early cancer detection 
  • Protecting yourself from UV rays is the best way to avoid skin cancers 

Is skin cancer painful?

Skin cancers often cause no pain at all until they reach an advanced stage or become quite large. For example, when melanoma develops, existing moles or freckles can change in texture or may itch or begin bleeding.

Melanomas are given a grade from 1 to 4 to indicate how advanced they are. Someone with stage 4 melanoma may not feel any pain at all until the cancer spreads to another area of their body such as lymph nodes or bones, when it may begin to cause pain or discomfort. 

Skin cancers rarely cause pain when touched or cause pain to radiate to other parts of the body. A skin cancer won't make you feel sick or ill.

You can have a skin cancer and suffer no symptoms at all aside from a suspicious mark on your body. 

Are other cancers that metastasise to skin cancer, painful?

Cancer that spreads from where it started to other parts of the body is called metastatic cancer. Cancer cells can spread from other parts of the body to the skin. However, it is not the same as when cancer begins in the skin. Skin metastases are also different from a local recurrence.  

For example, secondary breast cancers can form on or just below the skin around the chest wall or abdomen. Firm nodules or lumps may appear. They are generally painless

For common cancers such as breast cancer or prostate cancer, metastasis to the skin is quite rare. It usually indicates the disease is at an advanced stage and has a poor prognosis. 

The most common signs of skin cancer to watch for

  • Rough or scaly patches on the skin could be a sign of squamous cell carcinoma. 
  • A wart-like lump or bumps that itch or bleed for no reason could indicate the presence of basal cell carcinoma. This is the most common type of skin cancer. 
  • Changes in the appearance of moles or freckles, or redness or swelling or a new mole or freckle. 
  • Black or brown streaks under fingernails or toenails are sometimes present with melanoma skin cancers. 
  • A spot that changes from brown to black. Melanoma cancer begins in the melanocytes, a cell in the skin and eyes that produce melanin. Melanoma cells still make melanin, so a melanoma tumor is usually brown or black
  • A blister, ulcer or sore that doesn't heal within a few weeks. 
  • Patches of skin or a spot with uneven or unusual colour.

3 Types of skin cancer to be aware of:

Skin cancer treatments are most successful following early detection. This is why it is vital to perform regular visual inspections of your skin. Know what's normal for your skin and contact a doctor if something seems out of place. 

What to do if you suspect skin cancer

If you suspect you have skin cancer or you notice changes in your skin, the best thing you can do for your health is to get a skin check appointment. It also pays to be aware of risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing skin cancer, such as freckles and fair skin or your family history. 

If a cancer diagnosis is made, your doctor may suggest treatment such as mohs surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. 

Follow these top 5 tips to prevent skin cancer

Skin cancer prevention is all about practising sun safety as frequently as possible. 

  1. Try to stay out of the sun during the hottest parts of the day.
  2. Use sunscreen every day. Even incidental sun exposure puts you at risk. 
  3. Wear a hat to protect your face, sunglasses to protect your eyes, and clothing such as long-sleeve shirts when you know you will be exposed to UV rays. 
  4. Avoid using tanning beds and solariums. 
  5. Having regular skin checks will help you understand what to keep an eye on.   

Because skin cancers don't cause pain, it is hard to know when a problem exists. If you notice changes in your skin, it is best to make an appointment with a skin cancer doctor. During your appointment, your skin will be closely examined and you can inform the doctor if you have any skin conditions you might be concerned about. 

Early detection and treatment of skin cancer really does save lives, so book your skin check with SunDoctors today

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