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Observation for Suspected Malignancy

written by: Lisa Good • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 2/20/2011

If a malignant tumor of any kind is suspected it must be taken seriously. Learn how observation for suspected malignancy takes place and what signs and symptoms to watch for and observe in two common types of cancer.

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    Importance of Observation

    If a malignant tumor is suspected in any area of the body it needs to be taken seriously. There are different ways to locate them and define if a suspicious lesion or symptom is malignant. Most of the time the patient and the physician prefer the most non-invasive approach and most often that approach is observation. It is important to follow any and all physician directions with regard to follow up of observation for suspected malignancy.

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    Suspected Skin Malignancy

    The most common type of carcinoma of the skin is melanoma. Patients usually present with skin lesions such as moles or freckles that have changed in size or color. The acronym ABCDE is used to educate patients as to what to observe for when they suspect cancer of the skin. "A" stands for asymmetry, "B" is for border, "C" is for color (red, white or black in color) "D" is for diameter (greater than 6 cm) and "E" is for elevated surface. The lesions may also itch, ulcerate or bleed.

    People who are at risk for skin malignancies such as those who are fair skinned, have a family history of skin cancer or have had a sunburn that has blistered should be especially vigilant about observation of their skin for changes, especially moles. It is often recommended that high risk patients consult a dermatologist once a year for an annual exam so a trained professional can examine the patient for any changes. If a change has occurred it is best to consult a physician immediately. The physician may decide to perform a biopsy to check for melanoma or continue to use observation for a period of time.

    moles 

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    Suspected Lung Malignancy

    The leading cause of lung cancer is smoking. There are other risk factors such as family history, and exposure to radon, asbestos or second hand smoke. Symptoms include a persistent cough, coughing up blood, chest pain and shortness of breath.

    Usually the first step of looking for a suspected tumor in the lung is getting an x-ray. If a lesion or a spot is discovered on the initial chest x-ray, a physician may decide to do a biopsy or just observe it. Observation usually involves chest x-rays at regular intervals to see if the spot or lesion has increased in size, disappeared or has remained the same. At times, more intensive observation is needed, which may involve a CAT scan or an MRI.

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    Conclusion

    If a patient even suspects a malignancy at any site they need to immediately proceed to their physician's office no matter how minor they think it may be. Early detection is the key. The physician can then decide if observation or more aggressive testing is needed. Observation for suspected malignancy should be taken very seriously and follow up is important.

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    References

    American Cancer Society: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/skincancer-melanoma/index

    American Cancer Society: http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/LungCancer-Non-SmallCell/DetailedGuide/non-small-cell-lung-cancer-diagnosis

    Image source: www.publicdomainpictures.net