What are the symptoms of skin cancer on the scalp?

2 answers | Last updated: Oct 28, 2016
Anxiousannie asked...

What are the symptoms of skin cancer on the scalp?

Expert Answers

Jessica J. Krant, MD, MPH, is a board-certified dermatologist specializing in medical, cosmetic, and surgical dermatology, including Mohs micrographic skin cancer surgery. In addition to her work in private practice, Krant is assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

Skin cancer symptoms on the scalp can vary. I agree with everything Birder says above about the description of the lesions (BCC pink smooth, "pearly", translucent, but sometimes flat and white, scar-like and sometimes crusted or soft and bleeding. SCC red, scaly or rough, sometimes raised, sometimes flat. Melanoma dark brown or black and irregular or unexpected solitary new lesion.)

A few extra points I'd like to make are that melanoma, unfortunately, can also be red. When the pigment cells don't behave normally (because why would they in cancer?), it can really be a fooler. Also, skin cancers can be very tiny, but if you are vigilant and catch them before they would normally be recognized, that will give an excellent prognosis. Finally, it's nearly impossible to completely impossible to check your own scalp, and while hairdressers are VERY helpful, it's important to see a board-certified dermatologist at least once every year for a complete head to toe skin cancer screening. Some doctors may skip the scalp or do it fast, but make sure you pin your derm down and require a thorough and complete scalp check with your screening. It's the right thing to do. (More info at www.ArtofDermatology.com and www.AAD.org)

Community Answers

Birder answered...

The symptoms of skin cancer on the scalp will vary depending on the type of skin cancer you have. For example, basal cell skin cancer looks like a pink waxy bump that may bleed following minor injury. It may have irregular blood vessels on its surface and its center may be sunken in. I believe large basal cell carcinomas also may have oozing or crusted areas. Squamous cell skin cancer looks more like a firm, red nodule or flat lesion with a scaly, crusted surface. With melanoma (the most dangerous type) the symptoms of skin cancer on the scalp can really vary. It can be a large brownish spot with darker speckles, or a simple mole that changes in color, size or feel. It can also be a small lesion with an irregular border and red, white, blue or blue-black spots or a shiny, firm, dome-shaped bump. Also, watch for skin growths that seem to bleed, crust over, and bleed again repeatedly. Oh, and one more thing. Skin cancer lesions can also be itchy or tender to the touch. But this isn't always the case. I will tell you that the symptoms aren't always obvious. And if you have a full head of hair, it's easy to overlook a small lesion. So if you or someone you love is in the high risk category for skin cancer, it's worth having a professional check your scalp for you. My sister-in-law's father died of melanoma on the scalp. He didn't discover his until it was too late. A tragedy. But now my sister-in-law is vigilant about getting regular skin cancer checks. I urge everyone with skin cancer in their family to do the same!!!