Since melanoma accounts for 75% of skin cancer deaths, it is extremely important to identify cancer in its early stages. One of the most effective ways to do this is through a skin cancer screening.
When to Have a Skin Cancer Screening
In general, we recommend that everyone receives a routine skin cancer screening annually. It is especially important for some people, who may be considered at a higher risk; that includes:
- People who have a personal or a family history of melanoma cancer
- People with multiple atypical moles
- People with history of or present symptoms of actinic keratoses (precancerous lesions)
- People who have used tanning beds in the past
What to Expect During a Skin Cancer Screening
Since this is a fairly simple procedure, it should only take approximately 20 minutes.
First, you’ll change into a medical gown so the doctor can easily examine different areas of your body. The doctor will ask you if you have noticed any changes in your skin or areas of skin that you are concerned about. Then, they will perform a head-to-toe examination and make notes of any spots or moles that require further investigation. Depending on your family history, your lymphatic regions may also be examined.
If there are any areas of skin that seem abnormal, it will be looked at more closely with a dermatoscope.
What Happens When Suspicious Skin Spots are Found?
If the dermatologist finds any areas of concern, a tissue biopsy will usually be taken. The area will be numbed with a local anesthetic and a small sample of suspicious lesion will be taken. If the biopsy results determine that the spot isn’t cancerous, those areas will be monitored over time to rule future malignancies. If the area is cancerous, your doctor will develop a treatment plan that is best suited for your specific case. Mohs surgery is needed in most cases when any cancer cells are found that may have extended beneath the skin’s surface.
Types of Skin Cancer
There are different types of skin cancer that have different warning signs and will look differently on your skin.
- Melanoma. Melanoma often resembles a mole and is usually black or brown in color. Asymmetry, an uneven border, and variety of colors frequently indicate that a mole is malignant. It’s the most common cancer in women ages 25-29 and the second most common cancer (after breast cancer) in women 30-34, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation; but we highly recommend that people of all ages check their skin each month to detect abnormalities on early stages.
- Basal Cell Carcinoma. Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most frequently occurring type of skin cancer, and almost half of Americans will have either a basal cell carcinoma or a squamous cell carcinoma at least once by the age of 65. This type of skin cancer typically resembles sores, red patches, pink growths, shiny bumps, or scars.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma. The warning signs of Squamous Cell Carcinoma usually are a thick, rough, scaly patch that will bleed if irritated. It can also look like an open sore or a wart.
Dermatologists are the only ones who can tell if a mole is cancerous, so be sure to schedule an appointment if and when you notice any abnormalities.
Schedule a Skin Cancer Screening at Mystic Valley Dermatology
If you have a family history of skin cancer, you’ve noticed changes in your skin, or you’re simply concerned about your skin health, make an appointment with one of our licensed providers at Mystic Valley Dermatology. Our dermatologists will identify potential conditions and provide the right treatment for you.