Common Mistakes With Skin Cancer

Common Mistakes With Skin Cancer

Common Mistakes With Skin Cancer 533 800 Bo Frith

Skin cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the cells of the skin. It is the most common form of cancer diagnosed in the United States.[1]  Each year, approximately one million people are diagnosed with skin cancer.[2]

There are three main types of skin cancer:

  1. Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC): The most common type of skin cancer. It starts in the basal cells, which are found at the bottom of the epidermis (the outermost layer of skin). BCC often appears as a small, shiny bump or nodule on the skin, especially in areas exposed to the sun, such as the face or neck.
  2. Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC): This type of skin cancer begins in the squamous cells, which make up most of the epidermis. SCC often appears as a red, scaly, or crusted surface on the skin. It can develop in any part of the body but is most commonly found in sun exposed areas like the face, ears, neck, and hands.
  3. Melanoma: The most serious type of skin cancer. It begins in the melanocytes, the cells that produce pigment (melanin) in the skin. Melanoma can develop from an existing mole or appear as a new dark spot on the skin. It can spread rapidly to other parts of the body if not treated early.

A pathology test is how doctors make a diagnosis of cancer. First, the doctor orders a biopsy. A biopsy is a small cut of tissue. Doctors take the biopsy of a patient’s skin and send the sample to another doctor, a pathologist, who examines the skin under a microscope to determine if cancer cells are present. The results are published in what is called a pathology report.

Early diagnosis of skin cancer is critical. Small localized cancers have a five-year survival rate of 98 percent.[3] But the more time cancer has to spread, the lower the survival rate becomes. If cancer reaches bones or organs, the survival rate lowers to 15 percent.[4]

Common mistakes in treating skin cancer include:

  • Failure to order pathology tests. A doctor sees the patient has suspicious looking skin, but fails to take a biopsy or order a pathology test.
  • Misreading the test. Typically, the doctor fails to diagnose the skin as cancerous.
  • Failure to inform. Where the doctor fails to inform the patient of a cancer diagnosis or the pathologist (the doctor who read the skin under the microscope) fails to inform the doctor of the cancer diagnosis.

At Frith & Ellerman Law Firm, our team has successfully represented many patients harmed by medical malpractice with skin cancer. If you or someone close to you suffered harm relating to a skin cancer diagnosis, our team can thoroughly analyze your situation to determine if you have a viable case.


[1] Guy GP, Jr., Machlin SR, Ekwueme DU, Yabroff KR. Prevalence and Costs of Skin Cancer Treatment in the U.S., Am J Prev Med. Feb 2015;48(2):183-187. Available at doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2014.08.036.

[2] Rogers HW, Weinstock MA, Feldman SR, Coldiron BM. Incidence Estimate of Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer (Keratinocyte Carcinomas) in the US population, JAMA Dermatol 2015; 151(10):1081-1086. Available at

[3] Ullah, Faizan, et al. Clinicopathological Characteristics and Short-Term Survival Analyses of Cutaneous Malignant Melanoma, Cureus, 2020 Aug; 12(8). Available at

[4] Id.

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