Symptoms of skin cancer (non-melanoma)

The main symptom of non-melanoma skin cancer is the appearance of a lump or discoloured patch on the skin that doesn’t heal.

The lump or discoloured patch is the cancer, sometimes referred to as a tumour.

Basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) usually appears as a red or pink lump, although it can be pearly-white or ‘waxy’ looking and may contain visible blood vessels.

The discoloured patch of skin is flat and scaly and can have either a flesh-coloured or brown appearance.

Basal cell carcinomas can slowly grow to cover 10-15cm (4-6 inches) of skin. Both the lumps and discoloured skin patches can develop anywhere on your body, but usually appear on parts of the body that have been exposed to the sun.

Lumps usually develop on the face, ears and neck, while the discoloured skin patches usually develop on the chest and back. Basal cell carcinomas are usually painless, although they may itch or bleed.

Squamous cell carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) appears as a firm red lump or a flat, scaly and crusted scab-like lesion that does not heal. These lumps or lesions are tumours.

The lump or lesion (which just means something abnormal) usually appears on parts of the body exposed to the sun, such as the face, lips, ears, hands, arms and legs. Less commonly, they can develop inside the mouth, on the genitals or in the anus.

When to seek medical advice

If you develop a lump, lesion or skin discolouration that hasn’t healed after four weeks, see your GP. While it is unlikely to be cancer, it is best to be sure.

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