The spot on her scalp is barely visible, but that only makes it more dangerous.
That’s because the little spot is actually skin cancer, and Meredith was going to a surgical consultation about getting it removed. She wrote:
Please wear hats, sunscreen, swim shirts, etc. this summer and any time you are in the sun. We never wore anything as kids and now I’m paying for it as an adult.
The mom added that she has a follow-up appointment next week to get her body and scalp fully checked for any other areas of concern.
“I’m a bit nervous but it’s much better to find these early,” she wrote.
Early detection is especially important when it comes to skin cancer on the scalp. As Skin Check WA (a skin cancer awareness site for Western Australia) reports, melanomas on the scalp are more dangerous than other melanomas — perhaps as much as twice as deadly.
That little spot on my scalp is skin cancer. I’m on my way to the plastic surgeon to have a consultation for removal….
Why are scalp melanomas more dangerous? According to Skin Check WA, it’s largely because unless you are checking your scalp regularly, a diagnosis of a scalp melanoma often comes too late. However, they added, “Some also believe that the scalp provides the right conditions for the melanoma to spread, since it has abundant blood vessels and lymphatics.”
The appearance of skin cancer on the scalp can vary based on the type of cancer, so when checking the scalp, there are three different things to look for.
Basal cell skin cancer will have the appearance of a large pink spot. It may be raised or flat, and can be shiny and smooth or rough. In larger spots, veins may be visible. Moreover, the area may bleed easily. They are easily camouflaged by the skin of the scalp, but can look like a pink-ish pimple or can be darker (like a mole).
Melanomas, on the other hand, are usually dark — though some can be reddish-pink. Melanomas are an especially dangerous type of skin cancer and can vary in appearance. Generally, they are a brown or black spot that has an irregular color and border, like a darker mole.
Squamous cell skin cancer usually starts with a rough or scaly patch that becomes red, crusty, and raised. The area will be firm, but tender if pressure is applied. Though they may look like they were caused by an injury, they don’t heal and may grow into a larger, crusty spot or ulcer.
Because it can be difficult to check your own scalp for skin cancer, Skin Check WA recommends asking for help from a friend or going to a doctor for a full check. Hairdressers can also help identify possible melanomas during haircuts.
Of course, prevention is the best approach. That’s why the American Cancer Society recommends using the catchphrase “Slip! Slop! Slap! and Wrap” to remember how to protect yourself from the sun. It stands for “Slip on a shirt,” “Slop on sunscreen,” “Slap on a hat,” and, “Wrap on sunglasses.” In addition, stay in the shade when possible and avoid direct sunlight between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when UV rays are the strongest.
Hats, sunglasses, clothing, and sunscreen (properly applied according to the label) are all essential to preventing skin cancer. As Meredith wrote:
“Take care of yourselves. Summertime is awesome, but please be safe.”