Every year, give yourself the gift of healthy skin and get your birthday suit checked. Skin cancer happens every day, and regular screenings save lives.
One person dies every hour in this country from melanoma. Skin cancer is serious, but your routine visits with your board certified dermatologist can be fun. Dr. Day loves to catch up with her patients during their annual total body skin exam, and it is a great time to chat about your skin care regimen or your upcoming aesthetic treatment.
Prior to your visit, give yourself a once over. Ideally, this should be done about every 3 months on your own. Board certified dermatologists develop a trained eye, so you can feel confident in their care. Still, it is helpful if you come with a list of any specific spots or marks you feel are new or have changed. Also, wear comfortable clothing that is easily removed.
Pro tip: schedule your skin cancer screening for the early fall. This way, you will be reminded to protect your skin all summer...because when you come in for your visit, we will see that tan! Don't worry, we are here to inform and help you, not to judge you. Be weary of scheduling screenings during the summer. If a biopsy needs to be done, it might not heal as well with sun exposure and could be more likely to leave behind discoloration.
At the start of the visit, you will put on a gown. Underwear can stay on, but everything else comes off. Even socks, makeup, and jewelry.
Pro tip: remove all nail polish before the visit. Melanoma can occur anywhere, even on the nail bed under your nails! (Bob Marley died of melanoma of the toe that started under a nail)
Your dermatologist will most likely have a dermatoscope to evaluate spots that need a bit of extra attention. It is a device that magnifies through a few layers of the skin. Dr. Day and Dr. King love their dermatoscopes because they allow them evaluate pigment patterns in birthmarks and moles without removing them.
Everywhere gets checked. To your dermatologist, it is all skin and it all needs to be screened. Do not be shy. We live for this! The exam room is a private space where you should feel safe and comfortable.
Look for A,B,C,D,E in brown spots:
B: border irregularity
C: color variation. Most brown spots are uniform in color. If there are multiple colors or shades of brown or gray, note this.
D: diameter greater than a pencil eraser head (if you still remember what a pencil looks like!)
E: evolving. Any change in a previously stable spot needs to be evaluated
**Spots that are pink or red that change or just will not heal are also important to note. They may be flaky or even bleed when touched. These may be a sign of the non-melanoma types of skin cancer called basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma. Fortunately, they are much more common and can be easier to treat than melanoma. They still need to be treated as early as possible to minimize scarring and risk of spread.
If you do have a family history of melanoma, you need to be more vigilant because you are at a greater risk. Be sure to diligently conduct self-exams and consider seeing your dermatologist twice a year for a screening.
Pro tip: see your ophthalmologist for regular eye exams, since melanoma can also occur in the eyes.
The best way to have an easy skin cancer screening is to be sun smart throughout the entire year. This means wearing a hat and sunglasses when out in the sun, wearing sun protective clothing when possible, avoiding being out in midday sun, staying in the shade when you can, and wearing SPF 30 or higher sunscreen on a daily basis.
Now you are fully informed and ready to make every skin cancer screening a walk in the park … with sunscreen of course!