Skin cancer is a big problem in warm climates. And, in Houston, we have bright sunshine almost year-round. That's why Skin Cancer Awareness is very important. So, with some help from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), I want to talk about skin cancer on your feet. Because, scary fact: you could have skin cancer on your feet without foot pain. And that means you may not get diagnosed for a while.
Now, if you'r prone to moles, you may have regular skin checks at your dermatologist. And these are important to rule out skin cancer. But many examinations forget the delicate skin on the tops and bottoms of your feet. That's why it may be best to see your podiatrist for skin cancer foot checks. Because we examine these areas in a very special way.
How to Perform a Skin Cancer Check for Feet
Skin cancer on your feet is a little different than on the rest of your body. That's because it's not usually caused by sun exposure. Instead, skin cancer on your feet often comes from a virus. (That's especially true when it's on the bottom of your feet.)
Luckily, your Houston podiatrist knows how to spot unusual skin patches on your foot. That's why I'm often in a better position to diagnose this skin cancer than your dermatologist.
Of course, you can start the process of checking your feet regulalry at home. If you're a diabetic, you're already doing this every day. (I hope!!) Either way, my fellow Houstonians should learn to do home skin cancer exams.
When doing a skin check for your feet, you have to be thorough. It's easy to check the top of your foot, but don't forget your heels and sole. You may need a mirror to see those spots, or you can ask for help from a friend or loved one. And don't forget to check between your toes. While less common, you can still develop skin cancer in that delicate area.
What Skin Cancer Looks Like on Your Feet
Now you know how to examine your feet in those checks. But you need to know what to look for! That's why, today, I'm giving you some common signs of skin cancer. Here are the most common features of skin cancers of the feet:
If your feet keep cracking, itching or bleeding, it could be skin cancer. (In fact, at that point, you may have had skin cancer for a while. But because it was painless, you didn't notice. Until these painful signs showed up to inform you of the problem.
A non-healing sore could be a sign of skin cancer. (But it could also be an ulcer, especially if you have diabetes.) Bumps that crack and/or bleed could also be signs of skin cancer on your feet. And nodules with rolled edges or scaly areas could also be signs of a problem.
Spot pearly white bumps on your feet? Or did you see oozy patches that get crusty? These could all be signs of basal cell cancers. This is the most common type of skin cancer in America. It's caused by sun exposure and, with early detection, is pretty easy to treat. But it's important to learn the signs of basal cell on your feet. Because, on your foot, basal cell cancers look different. So they are easy to confuse with non-cancerous tumors or ulcers.
If you have small, scaly bumps (that may be inflamed), see your podiatrist right away. These can be a sign of early-squamous cell carcinoma, the most common type of skin cancer of the foot. (It's the second most common form of skin cancer in the country. And it's more agressive than basal cell cancers.) At first, this type of skin cancer is painless but itchy. That's why, without training, it's easy to miss the diagnosis. In fact, many doctors will say you have a plantar wart, fungal infection or eczema. But it's important to get the right diagnosis early. Because at that point, it's easy to prevent cancer from spreading off your foot. But, if left untreated, this cancer can spread and become deadly.
We've talked about basal and squamous cell cancers. But we can't forget malignant melanoma. It's one of the deadliest skin cancers, and it's very hard to treat. In fact, I'm sorry to say, if we don't catch it early it's usually fatal. When it comes to your feet, melanomas can develop on your soles or on top of your feet. They can even develop beneath your toenails. They are dangerous because they grow through skin, spreading to your blood and beyond. Also, malignant melanomas are easy to miss. They start as a small brown-black spot or bump. Except in about one third of cases, when they look pink or red. At first glance, the tumors look like moles. But if you look close, you'll spot some differences. These include irregular borders or an asymmetrical shape. The color could change over time. And they could have a diameter greater than six milimeters. These make it easy to confuse melanomas for moles, blood blisters or even ingrown toenails. Sometimes, they look like plantar warts, too. But your podiatrist can help you spot the difference.
Diagnosing and Treating Skin Cancer of the Foot
The only way to get a proper skin cancer diagnosis for your foot is to have a biopsy. This is a simple procedure your podiatrist can do in the office. We take a small sample of your skin and send it to our lab.
There, a skin pathologist will do an exam, looking for cancerous cells. If the pathologist says you have skin cancer in your foot, don't panic. Your podiatrist will help you determine your next course of action. Because the treatment you choose will depend on your type of skin cancer. And the stage at which you're diagnosed.
Each year, we diagnose about 2 million Americans with non-melanoma skin cancers. The goal of Skin Cancer Awareness is to promote early detection and treatment. But we need your help to that! So, if you see suspicious spots on your feet, don't wait! Schedule an appointment to see Houston podiatrist Dr. Andrew Schneider immediately.