Are they freckles, sun spots, moles, or cancer? Dr. Mary Frances Pilcher, a dermatologist on the medical staff of Lee Health, says it can be difficult for patients to tell the difference. “It’s very hard to tell sun spots from melanoma, so that is the reason it’s important to come get checked.”
Skin cancer can appear as spots that are raised, flat, white, or black. Doctors say if the spots become bigger, painful, or itch, it’s time to see your doctor.
“It’s very important to also remember that you hear about melanoma, the brown black spots, but non melanoma skin cancer is far more common and those can actually look like pimples or bug bites,” said Dr. Pilcher.
After age 30, patients should not develop new moles or spots that don’t go away. “Anything that’s been there, that’s new, that hasn’t gone away after about a month should be checked,” said Dr. Pilcher.
Skin cancer is any kind of tumor that originates in the skin---and there are many different types. “Basal cell skin cancer typically does not spread. They can be locally aggressive. Squamous cell skin cancer, which is the second most common type of skin cancer, can spread to other parts of the body. It typically goes to the lymph nodes and lungs, and other places as well. Melanoma can go anywhere and it can be deadly,” said Dr. Pilcher.
But if caught and diagnosed early, doctors say skin cancer is curable. “The risk is if you leave them too long. Most skin cancers that are the non-melanoma type can be cured simply by cutting them out. Melanoma if caught early can also be cured by cutting it out. It’s when they have sat there for a long time and they have had time to spread,” said Dr. Pilcher.
About one in five people in the United States will develop some type of skin cancer in their life. It’s why doctors encourage anyone at any age getting screened for skin cancer.
View More Health Matters video segments at LeeHealth.org/Healthmatters/
Lee Health in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of health care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For more than 100 years, we’ve been providing our community with personalized preventative health services and primary care to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries. Lee Health - Caring People. Inspiring Care.