At-home skin cancer diagnosis & treatment: Is it safe?
Artificial intelligence and at-home melanoma detection apps have paved the way for improved self-monitoring for potentially deadly skin cancers. But are these apps safe, and do they provide a definitive diagnosis? Let’s learn more about this, plus whether you can treat your own suspicious moles at home and the methods doctors use to treat skin cancers.
Can I check for skin cancer at home with a melanoma diagnosis app?
While artificial intelligence and at-home melanoma apps can help identify some signs of the most common types of skin cancer, it is not a diagnosis. Early detection is critical for optimising your outcomes if you have skin cancer, so the sooner you detect a potential risk and get in touch with your doctor, the higher your chances of successful treatment and cure.
If you detect a sign of skin cancer using an at-home app, we advise you to visit a doctor as soon as possible. They can make a definite diagnosis and perform treatment.
Even if you use an app at home, you still need a professional full-body skin cancer check with a qualified doctor at least once a year, as some skin cancers are invisible to the naked eye or don’t show symptoms until an advanced stage. Doctors have the necessary tools and training to identify everything the at-home apps have missed – for your peace of mind.
Can I cut out my own skin cancers?
No. At-home mole removal devices (or DIY concoctions like black salve) and any attempt to cut, freeze, burn or laser your skin comes with several harmful side effects and will likely make the problem much worse. There are very serious risks associated with trying to perform a mole removal procedure without a doctor:
- You have no idea whether you are removing a completely benign (safe) lesion or a malignant (cancerous) one. Doctors spend many years training to recognise suspicious lesions, and even after they identify one, they still perform a biopsy to determine exactly what they are dealing with before progressing to treatments.
- Removing skin cancers is not as simple as cutting them out or simply freezing them off. The cancer cells permeate deeper than you might think and are not contained to the coloured freckle you see on your skin.
- You might be dealing with a deadly melanoma, which can rapidly spread to other organs in your body if not properly excised. Even when removed from the skin’s surface, melanoma cells can remain in the skin and spread through the bloodstream to other parts of the body.
- You could get a serious infection. Surgical procedures performed at a skin cancer clinic or hospital involve the sanitation of tools, prepping the skin and post-operative care that can’t be found at home.
- At-home mole removal can cause significant scarring.
Not convinced? Learn more about why you shouldn't try at-home mole removal.
How will my skin cancer be treated in a skin cancer clinic?
More than 1.1 million skin cancers are diagnosed in Australia every year, costing our health system over $500 million annually - the highest cost of all cancers. Most skin cancers can be successfully treated if they're caught early but, if left undetected or untreated, can cause serious scarring, deformities and even death.
The doctors practising at our skin cancer clinics go above and beyond to ensure your skin health needs are met with expert diagnosis and treatment. We strive to deliver prompt, efficient and effective treatments that minimise scarring. Some treatments are completely non-invasive and require no surgery at all! The skin cancer treatment you receive will depend on many factors:
The type of cancer
There are many different types of skin cancer. The most common are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Some cancers are more dangerous than others and all must be treated with appropriate techniques. An aggressive cancer like melanoma, for example, will require a more substantial treatment.
Some cancers can spread out across a larger area of skin, or may have penetrated deeper into underlying tissues.
For example, a skin cancer on your arm will require different treatment to a cancer on your face, which is more sensitive.
Whether it has spread to other parts of your body
Sometimes, skin cancer can spread to other organs, requiring a combination of different treatment methods.
What are the treatments for skin cancer?
Some skin cancers are removed with surgery. This involves numbing the area with a local anaesthetic and excising the cancerous spot using a scalpel blade. The doctor will remove a margin of surrounding tissue as well, to ensure the entire skin cancer has been successfully excised. The wound is sealed with sutures and dressed.
However, skin cancer doesn't always require surgery. Your doctor will consider the most appropriate treatment for your circumstances.
Non-surgical treatment options
The doctor removes the skin cancer by scraping it with a sharp instrument and burning the tissue to eliminate cancer cell remnants. This is often used to treat superficial cancers confined to the top layer of skin.
The doctor freezes the skin cancer with liquid nitrogen, killing the tumour cells.
This involves the application of creams that stimulate the immune system and promote your own body to destroy the cancer naturally.