Approximately two out of every three people living in Australia will be diagnosed with skin cancer at some point before they reach the age of 70. It’s true that part of this has to do with the climate in our country and our general lifestyle.
In addition, another study revealed that around 200 instances of melanoma and more than 34,000 other skin cancer cases per year happen due to occupational exposures. That means most of these people don’t have a say in the matter because they are exposed to the sun as part of their work.
However, if it’s caught early, skin cancer — even melanoma — is treatable. In fact, an estimated 69% of people who are diagnosed with skin cancer in Australia are still alive five years after their diagnosis.
For those who have had a skin cancer and have completed treatment, the thought of it returning is something nobody wants to think about. But it’s also a possibility that you need to be prepared for.
Skin cancer coming back can happen in the same location as the original instance, or it could be somewhere else. It could happen immediately, or it can happen decades later.
Here are a number of essential warning signs that you must keep in mind.
The Signs of Basal Cell Carcinoma Recurrence
For those who have had basal cell carcinoma (BBC), they have an increased risk of developing a recurrent basal cell cancer. In fact, it was estimated that 50% of BCC patients are very likely to experience basal cell carcinoma recurrence within five years of the first diagnosis.
Once you’ve finished treatment for BCC, it’s crucial to conduct self-examinations regularly. Check for new symptoms, and if you detect some, tell your dermatologist right away.
It may recur in the same location or elsewhere in the body. Generally speaking, BCC tumours are more likely to recur if they meet one or all the following characteristics:
- They were a very large size when they were originally detected
- They have unclear borders
- They have already recurred at least one time
- They begin to develop at the site of some type of prior radiation therapy or other treatment
- They surround a particular nerve or are in a similar location
- They appear suddenly and grow very aggressively
The Signs of a Squamous Cell Carcinoma Recurrence
Experts recommend that you get a complete skin examination after an SCC diagnosis every three to 12 months for the first two years. It’s also recommended that you have follow up examinations every six to 12 months for the next three years.
Then, as is true with other types of skin cancer, you’ll need yearly skin examinations for the rest of your life.
- It will appear thicker than two millimetres in size.
- It will be a more invasive tumour, characterised by your physician as either Clark Level IV or V.
- It will begin to grow around a nerve, a lymph vessel, or a blood vessel
- Your doctor will be able to see the SCC cells when they examine your tumour under a microscope.
- These cells will immediately vary in appearance from normal tissue. This means that they are “poorly differentiated” or “undifferentiated” cells, as opposed to cells with a regular amount of differentiation.
- Your original treatment was something other than Mohs surgery, which is the treatment technique with the lowest five-year recurrence rate.
The Signs of a Melanoma Recurrence
Your follow-up rate for melanoma will vary depending at which stage the melanoma was detected and excised.
If the tumour was detected in Stage 0 — or melanoma in situ, for example — it is recommended that you have yearly examinations for the rest of your life.
On the other end of the spectrum is Stage IIB-IV, which requires an examination every three to six months for two years. Then, regular examinations every three to 12 months for the next three years. Finally, as is true with other types of skin cancer, you will need to have yearly examinations for the rest of your life.
The signs of melanoma skin cancer coming back are unfortunately a bit more vague than the other forms. But you need to remember that the most important risk factor here is on which cancer stage you had during your original melanoma.
Melanoma in situ recurs less frequently and after longer periods of time. Later stages recur more often and much faster.
The important thing to understand is that melanoma can easily recur either at the original affected tissue or in other areas like your lymph nodes, so if a suspicious mole appears anywhere on your body, you need to have it checked as soon as possible.
MoleMap: Information Is Your Most Powerful Weapon
In the fight against melanoma and other skin cancers — both initially and in terms of a recurrence — the best defence is early detection.
That’s why at MoleMap, since 1997, we have been a trusted provider of advanced melanoma detection and surveillance services in Australia through our network of national clinics.
We use the most thorough and trusted skin cancer detection technology in the world. Our experienced registered nurse melanographers are trained to detect lesions of concern. They provide services including spot checks, skin checks and a full body molemap. Our team of highly trained and independent dermatologists are experts at diagnosing early stage melanoma. Because MoleMap can more accurately identify melanoma, there is less need to surgically remove benign (harmless) moles.
The sooner you detect a skin cancer recurrence, the sooner you can act.
If you’d like to more information about the essential warning signs that you must be aware of in terms of a skin cancer recurrence, or if you would like to book in with an expert melanographer to have a mole of concern diagnosed by a dermatologist, contact MoleMap today.