Skin Cancer Screening
Have you ever found yourself looking at an odd spot on your skin and wondering, “Could that be skin cancer?” You’re not alone. In fact, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S., with more than 5.4 million cases treated every year in this nation alone.
Here’s the good news: Most skin cancers are treatable and, if caught early enough, completely curable. You can start the process by conducting regular skin exams on your own body. Heading to one of our dermatologists for skin exams is also critical in catching skin cancer early
enough for treatment. If you’re over 40, you should plan on a skin exam with a dermatologist every year.
There exist three types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are the more common forms of skin cancer. They typically result from overexposure to the sun. Melanoma is the most serious and may appear as a dark brown, black, or multi-colored lesion with irregular borders.
Each type of skin cancer has its own signs and symptoms. When you’re conducting your own skin exam before heading to the doctor, take a look for the following changes in your skin:
● Scaly patches of skin that may be pink or red
● Sores that heal, then start to bleed again (or sores that never heal)
● Round skin growths that are translucent or pearly in appearance
● Dark, irregular moles
● Dark streaks under the fingernails or toenails
● Dark areas on the palms or soles of feet
In particular, if you’re concerned about an existing mole, it is very important to know the ABCDEs of Melanoma:
● A Asymmetry – one half of the lesion does not match the other
● B Border Irregularity – the edges of the lesion are jagged
● C Color Variation – lesion has different shades of tan, brown, and black
● D Diameter – greater than a pencil eraser or 6 mm
● E Evolving – lesion is evolving or changing in size, shape, or color
If any of the above are present, make an appointment with us right away
When you visit one of our dermatologists for a skin exam, the doctor will start by checking your scalp and then examine your skin from head to toe. They may investigate a concerning lesion more closely with a magnifying lens, measure a lesion and document its size, or even take a picture of a lesion for your medical record. Our dermatologists systematically perform skin exams, using their specialized knowledge and experience to identify skin conditions and the various types of skin cancer.
If the doctor suspects any type of skin cancer is present, they will perform a biopsy. A small piece of the lesion is removed and sent to a dermatopathologist where it is placed under a microscope for further examination.
Early detection is particularly important with melanoma, which is the most dangerous type of skin cancer (though by far the least common). Regular self-exams and knowing the ABCDEs of Melanoma are key in early detection.
If the biopsy reveals that skin cancer is present, your dermatologist will recommend the best treatment option depending on the type of skin cancer and the location on the body. The following are the most common treatments recommended to remove skin cancer:
● Electrodessication and Curettage (Scrape and Burn)
● Mohs Surgery
In all cases, your dermatologist has your health and well-being as their priority, choosing the right treatments to remove the skin cancer as effectively and efficiently as possible. But the first step, always, is heading to our office for your skin exam.