​Non-melanoma Skin Cancer

​Non-melanoma skin cancer desc​ribes a category of skin cancers that slowly form and develop on the upper layers of the skin. ​​In most cases, the first indicator of non-melanoma skin cancer is a lump or patch that appears on your skin and does not heal after a couple of weeks.

The main indicator of non-melanoma skin cancer is the appearance of a lump, or a discoloured patch of skin that does not seem to heal. Changes in the skin may include:

  • A small red or pink lump. Though it may sometimes appear pearly-white or ‘waxy’ looking. It may also appear as a red and scaly patch of skin. The lump may become crusty, bleed or form into an ulcer as it slowly grows. This is indicative of Basal cell carcinoma (BCC).

  • A hard, pink lump which might have a flat, crusty and scaly surface. This lump may be tender to touch and easily bleed, and may develop into an ulcer. These changes are indicative of Squamous cell carcinoma.

  • A red scaly patch on your skin which could be quite itchy. It is most common amongst elderly women, and it often appears on the lower leg, yet it may appear in any area of your skin. These changes are indicative of Bowen’s disease – this disease is sometimes referred to as “squamous cell carcinoma in situ.” 

Visit a medical expert working with the Oncology Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital, if you notice that you have begun to develop a lump, skin lesion or skin discoloration that has not healed within a few weeks.
Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.                        

The diagnostic process for non-melanoma skin cancer will begin with questions about the symptoms you may be experiencing followed by a review of your medical records and questions about your medical history. Your doctor will then examine your skin and the infected area. For further assessment, you may be guided to undergo the following tests:

  • Biopsy – surgical extraction of a tissue sample from the tumour or suspected area for inspection in a laboratory. In some instances, the skin cancer may be diagnosed and treated simultaneously.

  • Fine needle aspiration (FNA) – in some rare instances where your doctor suspects a case of squamous cell carcinoma, a FNA can help to examine your lymph nodes for any signs of swelling or cancer.  

Surgery is the most common form of treatment for non-melanoma skin cancer. One form of surgical option is skin excisions. This is a procedure where the cancerous skin is surgically removed (along with the surrounding rim of healthy tissue) to ensure that the cancer is removed entirely. There are a few different forms of cancer excisions, including a basic excision, wide-local excision or Mohs surgery (removal of skin, a layer at a time). The form of surgery chosen for you will depend on a number of factors, including the type of cancer you have, the stage of your cancer, and you overall health. Cancer excisions may be done in combination with a skin graft.​

The wounds after an excision tend to heal quickly, usually within a week or two. However, scarring is dependent on a number of factors, such as the location of the tumour and the patient’s care of the wound following the procedure.

Please click here for some guidelines on “what to do before your surgery”
Please click here for some guidelines on “what to do on the day of your surgery”

All surgical procedures carry some degree of risk. Although rare, the possible compactions for cancer excisions include:

  • Complications associated with anaesthesia - such as pain, an allergic reaction, bloating, gas or diarrhoea.

  • Infection

  • Scarring

  • Bleeding

  • Healing problems or re-opening of wound

Please click here for some guidelines on “what to do after your surgery”
The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.
The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.
The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.
Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.



The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.