Skin Cancer

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Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma have a better prognosis than most other types of cancer. Once treated, these cancers are unlikely to spread. But people who have had basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma may well see new cancerous areas appear later. You, along with your doctor, should monitor your skin and check regularly for changes in your skin. It also is important to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer again by wearing sunscreen and protective clothing. See the Prevention section for more tips for avoiding the sun and the Testing section for more on examining your skin.

Melanoma patients have a high risk of developing new melanomas. Some also are at risk of a recurrence of the original melanoma in nearby skin or in other parts of the body. The chance of recurrence is greater for patients whose melanoma was thick or had spread to nearby tissue than for patients with very thin melanomas. Family members of people with melanoma should also have regular checks for melanoma.

To increase the chance of detecting a new or recurrent melanoma as early as possible, patients should follow their doctor's schedule for regular checkups. Follow-up care for those who have a high risk of recurrence may include X-rays, blood tests, and scans of the chest, liver, bones, and brain.

It is especially important for patients who have dysplastic nevi (atypical moles) and a family history of melanoma to have frequent checkups. People with melanoma also should monitor their own skin carefully for changes. See the Testing section for more information.

Thanks to new, improved therapies, an increasing number of people are living beyond cancer and enjoying a full life after treatment. There are many resources, such as support groups, long-term follow-up clinics, and various types of counseling (financial, emotional, spiritual) available to cancer patients to help them cope. Patients should ask their doctor where to find these types of services.

Last reviewed on 7/21/09

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