Most of the time—99 out of 100 cases—skin cancer is clearly visible on the outside of the body (though realising that a funky mole, rash, blemish or lesion is malignant isn’t always so easy). Yet there are exceptions to every rule, and this one is no different.
Of course, an advanced melanoma could—depending on its location—cause pain, headaches, or other non-skin symptoms. But by that point you would likely have “a pretty large, ulcerated tumor or wound on the skin,” says Zaineb Makhzoumi, MD, a surgeon and assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “It’s not something you wouldn’t notice.”
What we’re talking about here are the rare exceptions in which non-skin symptoms are your very first clue that you have skin cancer. Here are seven signs you should know about, just in case you happen to fall into that unlucky 1%.
You can’t see them. But if you feel lumps beneath your skin—especially in areas like your groin, armpit, or neck—those may be an indication of skin cancer that has spread to your lymph nodes, says Jeremy Davis, MD, a clinical instructor and surgeon at UCLA Health.
“It’s not common, but there are situations where your immune system takes care of the primary mole or skin lesion even though the cancer itself has metastasised,” he explains. “So the cancer started on your skin, but you never saw it.”
A good rule of thumb: If you find a lump anywhere, see your doctor.