Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK and it comes in two forms: non-melanoma skin cancer and melanoma.
Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer (NMSC)
There are two types of NMSC:
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC): It is caused by exposure to the sun, so is usually found on the face, limbs and trunk. More than 100,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with BCC each year – it is treatable, with no risk of spreading. Most BCCs are painless; people become aware of them as a persistent scab that bleeds occasionally.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC): This is faster growing than BCC and its most common cause is over-exposure to ultra-violet light from the sun or sunbeds. They tend to appear on the face, scalp, neck, hands and forearms. SCCs don’t usually spread, but occasionally affect nearby lymph nodes and other organs.
You can find out more about both these cancers at:
This is the most serious form of skin cancer, so the earlier it is diagnosed the better. It is the fifth most common cancer in the UK and can be caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun or sunbeds.
There is an increased risk of developing melanoma if you have:
- Lots of moles or freckles
- Pale skin that burns easily
- Red or blond hair
- A close relative who has had melanoma
- Too much exposure to the sun or sunbeds
So it’s important to see your GP if you have an existing or new mole and it is:
- Getting bigger
- Changing shape – especially if it gets an irregular edge
- Changing colour, getting darker, becoming patchy or multi-shaded
- Losing symmetry
- Itching or painful
- Bleeding or becoming crusty
- Looking inflamed
Melanoma always requires surgery but your prospects are good if it is detected and treated at an early stage.
If it is at an advanced stage, you may need targeted treatment and immunotherapy. You can find out more at:
If you are referred by your GP to a skin cancer clinic, you can expect:
- To see a consultant dermatologist or senior member of their team
- An examination of all your skin
- An examination with a dermatoscope
If further tests are needed, such as a skin biopsy under local anaesthetic, this will be arranged following the appointment and can sometimes be carried out on the same day.
If more skin surgery is needed, this can be carried out at Kingston or the by the specialist team at St George’s Hospital.
All patients with a diagnosis of SCC or melanoma are discussed at the weekly meeting of our skin cancer multi-disciplinary team. Its members discuss and devise a treatment plan for each patient.
Skin cancer treatments
- Topical treatments (cream)
- Cryotherapy (freezing)
- Photodynamic therapy
- Targeted therapy
- Radiation therapy
Holistic Needs Assessment (HNA)
If you have cancer, you often need care, support and information above and beyond the management of your condition.
At a holistic needs assessment, a doctor or nurse will discuss your physical, emotional and social needs. It’s about you as a whole, not just your illness.
This is a chance for you to share as much as you want about your worries and concerns. It will help us to clarify your needs and make sure you are referred to the relevant services.
It’s not compulsory, and if you decide not to have an HNA it won’t affect your care. But many patients find it useful because it identifies what help is available – and the doctor or nurse carrying it out can refer you to other services.
An HNA may be offered:
- Around the time of diagnosis or start of treatment
- When surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy has been completed
- Any time a patient asks for one