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Old 03-18-2013, 05:08 PM   #1
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Can you have skin cancer for years and not know it?

My sister had a mole on her back that was raised. Either having it scratched or something caused it to be a flat, light brown in color that feels like a scab (but not raised) and I saw that it was not perfectly round in shape. Its a little larger than the end of a pencil eraser and for whatever reason is now all of a sudden worried that it may be skin cancer. She has fair skin and if I remember right, she has had that for a few years at least. She doesn't remember if it ever bled, but my question is, can someone have skin cancer for years and not know it? She said its not changed colors or size.

Anyone know on this? Thanks for the replies!

 
Old 03-20-2013, 11:08 AM   #2
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Re: Can you have skin cancer for years and not know it?

There are a number of different skin cancers, and some are very slow growing and can be in the skin for years before becoming fatal. The most common are basal and squamous cell. Typically, individuals know there is "something" there, but are unsure what it is. But both of these cancers can actually go on for years before they get deep enough into the skin tissue to become fatal.

With melanoma it is very different. Melanoma is fast growing and fairly aggressive. It can take a matter of months to get to a depth where it can impact the lymph nodes.

Now, some one can be at risk due to having spent a lot of time in the sun, having fair skin, a lot of moles, etc. However, at risk doesn't mean that one will develop skin cancer. I've yet to meet or talk to an individual who had melanoma where it had been there for "years." A few months, perhaps.

If there is any concern about this mole on your sister at all, she should see a dermatologist. Only doctor will be able to determine if it is something to be concerned about and discuss options about having it removed.

 
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Old 03-20-2013, 11:13 AM   #3
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Re: Can you have skin cancer for years and not know it?

How many years can it be there without knowing what it is? Would it change colors, get larger, etc? Can moles actually be flat? Isn't something that becomes cancer usually dark or raised?

Thanks!

 
Old 03-25-2013, 07:56 AM   #4
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Re: Can you have skin cancer for years and not know it?

Yes, you can have skin cancer for years without knowing it. Read up on the thread I just answered about a sore that doesn't heal. My husband had a sore on his collar bone for about 10 years. Sometimes it bled sometimes it looked healed. If it weren't for a new sore on his back, his first sore wouldn't have been diagnosed. We thought it was from playing golf and skin rubbing because of how he swung the club. He's has this basal skin carcinoma for 10 years! We were both shocked. IT's out now and hopefully gone forever.

 
Old 03-26-2013, 10:43 AM   #5
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Re: Can you have skin cancer for years and not know it?

To answer your questions, it depends on the type of skin cancer. Basal and/or Squamous cell cancers do not always start out as moles. Rather, they look like sores on the skin that simply do not heal properly. (as stated by Johands333) These types of cancers are very slow growing, can be in the skin for years - sometimes decades - and are very rarely, if ever, fatal.

Melanoma, on the other hand, normally begins as a mole. This might be a mole that is already in existance or a new mole that developes. Melanoma is very fast growing and very aggressive - one will not survive years or decades with melanoma left untreated. With melanoma a mole would definetely look "off." It might grow larger or be jagged or be exceptionally round with abnormally crisp borders or extremely black in color or it could develop a white center. Melanoma will usually become elevated, or raised, whereas most moles are flat or just slightly raised. When I mean raised, I mean a significant bump. Having had a melnoma, trust me, you know when it seems "weird" or "off" and "not just right." If you know your body and something really strange develops, you get a sense and it's difficult to explain unless you've been there.

The important thing to remember is that melanoma is very, very aggressive and does wait years. And it can be fatal if left untreated. Basal and/or Squamous cell is not very agressive and is usually not fatal.

 
Old 03-26-2013, 07:45 PM   #6
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Re: Can you have skin cancer for years and not know it?

Hmmm. She says that it hasn't changed, hasn't grown, doesn't bother her but it is kind of jagged or pointed, I don't know if I'm explaining that right but like I said, shes had it for a long time. If its skin cancer, would she have any physical sign?

 
Old 03-27-2013, 03:16 PM   #7
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Re: Can you have skin cancer for years and not know it?

Really, the only way to get a firm resolution is to have this checked out by a doctor. I don't know that any of us are medical professionals, and tossing opinions back and forth on a internet web site is not really going to offer much assistance to your sister. If this is something which is bothering her, then she needs to make an appointment with her doctor or a dermatologist and have a professional take a look at it.

 
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