Non-melanoma skin cancer

John Ealey lives in Toronto, Ontario with his husband Evan. He was diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer in 2023.

I had a lump above my right eyebrow and it felt different to other marks I have had on my face before and I kept thinking that I could feel a pulse. It was also more sensitive and itchy.

John went to his family doctor  and was referred to a dermatologist where the lump was excised and cauterized. When John got his pathology results back he was surprised to hear that he had squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).

The clinic sent the results of the biopsy to both my doctor and my dermatologist. When at work I had a voicemail from my doctor saying I had a small amount of skin cancer, but not to worry as “it looks like they got everything”. He said that the dermatologist would follow up with me. This of course worried me immediately and I called the dermatologist. They did get back to me at the end of the day and explained the results in detail. However just hearing the word cancer was pretty stressful without any real explanation.

Luckily the excision had removed all the tumour and only follow up treatment was needed. 

Skin cancer facts:

There are over 80,000 cases of skin cancer diagnosed each year in Canada and the number increases every year. Skin cancer is usually categorized into either melanoma or non melanoma, the latter being the most common. Most non melanoma skin cancers (NMSC) develop on areas that have been exposed to the sun, such as the face, neck, and the backs of the hands. There are two main types of NMSC: about 23% are squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and 77% are basal cell carcinoma (BCC). 

There are a number of factors that can increase your risk for NMSC, including an older age, a family history of the disease, having a lighter skin tone and a large number of moles on your skin. In addition, a 2020 study (Singer at al) indicates that gay and bisexual men report skin cancer rates nearly twice that of heterosexual men.

Signs and symptoms of NMSC to look out for:

  • A new spot on the skin
  • A change in the shape, size or colour of an existing spot
  • A spot that is itchy or painful
  • A non-healing spot that might bleed or crust
  • A red or skin coloured bump on top of the skin
  • A growth with a raised border that may be crusty or bleeding
  • A red rough or scaly spot that you can feel
  • A scar-like growth without a well-defined border