Skin cancer screenings are one of the most important reasons to visit your dermatologist

By Dr. Laurie Jacobson

Skin cancer screenings are one of the most important reasons to visit your dermatologist.  Why is doing this on an annual basis so important?

Skin Cancer ScreeningThe vast majority of skin cancers are treatable, especially when caught early.  There are over 3 million new cases of skin cancer treated in the US each year, and one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime!  It is the most common cancer in the US.

When skin cancers are found late, they are more challenging to treat, especially melanoma.  In the case of melanoma, early detection can be the difference between life and death.

What does a full skin exam entail?

A full skin exam is exactly that; we need to examine every aspect of your skin so please take off your socks and wear your hair down so we can be thorough with your examination.  We provide a gown and a medical assistant is in the room with the doctor during the exam.

The visit typically takes 15-20 minutes and we examine everywhere where there is skin—between toes, behind the ears, and the groin and buttocks.  Please try to avoid wearing nail polish as skin cancer can sometimes present under or near the nail bed.  And, wear as little makeup as possible so we can thoroughly examine your face.

What happens if the doctor finds something concerning?

When you come in for the examination, be prepared to potentially have a biopsy that very day.  It’s a quick and straightforward procedure in which a small amount of local anesthetic is injected and a tiny skin sample is taken and sent to the lab.  The lesion is examined under the microscope and results are typically ready within a few days.

The biopsy is only for purposes of diagnosis and not treatment so if it is indeed a skin cancer, it will require further treatment to remove the entire lesion.   We provide the vast majority of surgeries needed for treating skin cancer in our office.

How can I prevent skin cancer?

  • Wear sunscreen daily with an SPF of 30 or more on exposed areas, including your lips
  • Wear protective clothing including broad brimmed hats and when in the water, wear rash guard shirts
  • Be alert to any changing growths on your skin (bleeding, itchy, painful, growing for example)
  • Visit your dermatologist annually for skin checks or whenever you have a concerning lesion
  • Perform a self-skin exam monthly and become familiar with the spots on your skin. Be alert for new or changing growths.
  • Avoid tanning booths!

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