Follow up for skin cancer

After treatment for skin cancer you might have follow up appointments. These are to check how you are and see whether you have any problems or worries.

It’s important to check your skin and know how to protect it in the sun. If you spot any signs of another skin cancer between check ups, you should contact your GP or specialist.

Check ups

At your appointments, the doctor will:

  • look for signs of the cancer returning (this is rare for many early stage skin cancers)
  • see if there are any problems following treatment
  • examine for signs of new skin cancer
  • make sure you know what to look out for
  • check that you know how to protect your skin in the sun

Once you’ve had one skin cancer, you’re more at risk of getting another.

How often

How often you'll need check ups depends on how likely your cancer could come back. Your doctor will make this assessment based on:

  • the size and depth of the original cancer
  • the type of cancer
  • the grade of the cancer (what the cells looked like under the microscope)
  • whether you have a weakened immune system
  • how many skin cancers you've had

Some skin cancers have a low risk of coming back.  For example, if you have an early stage basal cell skin cancer (BCC) or a low risk squamous cell skin cancer (SCC) you might have:

  • a single follow up appointment and then no further follow up appointments 

You might have more regular follow up if you had a SCC with a high risk of coming back. You might have:

  • appointments every 3 to 6 months for up to 5 years  

These will be with your GP or specialist.

What to expect

At each appointment, your doctor will:

  • examine you
  • ask about your health and if anything's worrying you

You might have tests to check for signs of recurrence. These can include:

  • a skin biopsy
  • an ultrasound scan
  • CT scan

Worried about your check up

Many people find their check ups quite worrying. A hospital appointment can bring all the worry about your cancer back, if you’re feeling well and getting on with life

Remember that the risk of BCC spreading to other parts of the body is extremely low. BCC can come back in the skin close to where they started, but they hardly ever spread elsewhere.

A squamous cell skin cancer has a higher risk of spreading than a BCC. But this is still unusual.

You might find it helpful to talk to someone close about how you’re feeling. It‘s quite common for people to have counselling after their cancer treatment.

You can also call the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040. The lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday

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