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How to spot early signs of skin cancer on clients


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May being Skin Cancer Awareness Month highlights the need for therapists to be able to recognise early warning signs on their clients’ skin.


Says Marie Tudor of skin cancer charity Skcin: “Therapists are uniquely positioned to identify potential abnormalities on their clients’ skin and provide signposting for professional clinical assessment.


“Early detection, diagnosis and treatment can help to avoid surgery, improve patient outcomes and, most importantly, save lives.”


According to CANSA (Cancer Association of South Africa), there are two main categories of skin cancer, namely, melanoma (malignant melanoma) and non-melanoma. States CANSA: “The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that the incidence of both non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers has been increasing over the past decades, and WHO estimates that a 10 % decrease in ozone levels will result in an additional 300,000 non-melanoma and 4,500 melanoma skin cancer cases globally.”


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Tudor continues: “Basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, collectively known as non-melanoma skin cancer, is the most common form, usually occurring on areas of skin frequently exposed to UV radiation.”


She lists below the signs and symptoms of non-melanoma skin cancer.

• A sore or rough patch of reddish, irritated skin that isn’t healing.

• A pearly, pinkish or skin-coloured bump or nodule (this can also appear tan, brown or black).

• A pink growth with a rolled, elevated border and/or crusted centre.

• A white, yellow or waxy scar-like area.

• A wart-like growth or hard, white- or skin-coloured lumps.


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Tudor points out that melanoma can occur anywhere on the skin. Around 70% of cases will appear as a new mole, and the remaining 30% occur in an existing mole or freckle that changes in appearance.


Signs and symptoms of melanoma skin cancer.


The ABCDE of melanoma is a common tool used to identify around 70% of cases:


A = Asymmetry, when one half of the mole looks different to the other.

B = Border, when the borders are irregular or have undefined edges.

C = Colour, when the colour varies within the mole.

D = Diameter, when the largest diameter is greater than 6mm.

E = Evolution, changes to the mole’s size, shape, colour, surface or sensation.


“If you spot any of these signs on your client’s skin, you should advise them to see their GP as soon as possible,” emphasises Tudor.


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