Is skin cancer itchy?

ACCORDING to the NHS roughly 147,000 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are diagnosed every year in the UK.

Knowing the symptoms and what to look out for may save you or a loved one's life.

What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer is an abnormal growth of skin cells that normally develop in areas that are exposed to sunlight however it can also form in areas that aren't exposed to the sun.

It occurs when damaged skin cells from sunlight or tanning beds mutate or if you have genetic defects that mean skin cells multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors.

The two main types of skin cancer are defined by the cells involved:

  • Keratinocyte carcinoma – This category of skin cancer involves the two most common forms, basal and squamous
  • Melanoma – This type of skin cancer develops from cells that give your skin colour

Skin cancer is the fifth most common type of cancer in the UK.

What are the main symptoms of skin cancer?

The first sign that you may have skin cancer is normally in the form of a lump or a patch of discolored skin that doesn't go away after a few weeks.

Most of the time, cancerous lumps are red and firm and turn into ulcers while a cancerous patch is usually flat and scaly.

You should see your GP if you have any skin abnormality that doesn't heal after 4 weeks.

Is itchy skin a sign of cancer?

Itchy skin can be the first symptom of cancer.

Itching may happen due to direct irritation of the skin (such as skin cancer), substances secreted by a tumor or through the build-up of bile salts.

Itchy skin can be a symptom of many different types of cancer and skin conditions and is very hard to differentiate between each one.

If you’re experiencing severe or prolonged itchiness with no clear cause, you should see a doctor or GP.

What is the typical treatment for skin cancer?

There are different types of treatment depending on your individual circumstances and the type of cancer you have.

Surgery is the main treatment for people with non-melanoma skin cancer with treatment being successful for at least 9 out of 10 people.

For other types of skin cancer, your specialist care team may include a dermatologist, a plastic surgeon, a radiotherapy and chemotherapy specialist plus a pathologist.

Your cancer team will recommend what they think is the best treatment option, but the final decision will be yours.

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