Although skin cancer is the most prevalent type of cancer in the United States, most forms are easily treatable. Therefore, getting skin cancer screenings is a vital aspect of a patient’s health, especially if they are at a heightened risk for developing a condition. Even if the patient does not have skin cancer, these tests can reveal if they may develop the disease in the future. To help patients prepare for a skin cancer evaluation, Dermatology Associates provides an overview of the process.
Self Assessment before the Screening
Visiting a dermatologist for a professional screening is essential, but there are a few steps a patient can take before their appointment to aid with the physician’s examination. They can look over their entire body in a full-length mirror and note any new growths, blemishes that have changed since last viewing them, and itchy or bleeding skin patches. During self-assessment, key areas of the body to examine include:
- Face and neck
- Armpits and back and front of forearms
- Front, back, and sides of legs
- Fingers and underneath fingernails
- Under the breasts (women)
- Sides of the torso
- Buttocks and genitals
- Feet, toes, and skin under toenails
During the Dermatologist Examination
When a patient goes into the dermatology practice for a screening, the physician will ask them about moles or other concerning marks on their skin. After these questions, they will ask the patient to remove their clothes and put on a medical gown. Then, they will inspect their body, looking at all the same places the patient did during their self-assessment.
As with other physical examinations, a skin cancer screening can be embarrassing. Dermatologists realize this and will work efficiently to minimize discomfort. In most cases, a skin cancer screening will only take around 10 to 15 minutes. It may last longer if the doctor notices a potential skin issue and has to investigate it more thoroughly with a magnifying glass, dermatoscope, or similar tool.
Patients can help to expedite the process by taking off their makeup, jewelry, bandages, or other accessories covering the skin. These items may obstruct the dermatologist’s ability to adequately assess the patient’s skin.
What the Dermatologist Looks For
Dermatologists use the “ABCDE” strategy to check for skin cancer symptoms, as this approach can indicate if the person has the most serious variation of the disease – melanoma. These letters make up an acronym that includes:
- A – Asymmetry: Abnormally shaped moles are ones where one side does not match the other.
- B – Border appearance: The edges of the mole are torn, blurred, or unusual.
- C – Color: A single mole consists of multiple shades of brown, black, and beige.
- D – Diameter: The mole’s diameter exceeds ¼ in, which is comparable to the size of a pencil eraser or pea.
- E – Evolving: The mole has altered in color, shape, or size since the last screening.
Besides these symptoms, the doctor may also look for actinic keratosis during the screening. These rough skin patches represent damage from overexposure to the sun. If actinic keratosis is left untreated, it may develop into skin cancer.
Skin cancer screenings are only visual assessments of blemishes that may be cancer, meaning further tests may be required if the dermatologist believes the patient’s mole signifies cancer or could lead to the disease.
The most common test for diagnosing skin cancer is a biopsy. This easy procedure can be completed at the dermatologist’s office following the screening. The doctor will clean the area, numb it with a shot of anesthesia, and then use a scalpel or similar tool to scrape off the mole. The sample they collect is then sent to a pathologist for microscopic examination. If biopsy results indicate further treatment is necessary, the dermatologist will discuss options with the patient.
Obtain Reliable Skin Cancer Evaluations and Treatment
Patients who need a trustworthy physician for skin cancer screenings can turn to Dermatology Associates for assistance. Besides evaluations, the experienced team also provides several surgical and non-surgical skin cancer treatment options. The physicians, nurse practitioners, and physicians’ assistants deliver effective, evidence-based, and personalized service and educate patients on different conditions and care plans.
Since 2008, Dermatology Associates has offered patients throughout Central New York high-quality and compassionate skin care services to help them understand diagnoses and receive treatment. Contact the office to schedule an appointment or learn more about skin cancer screenings.