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What to Expect During a Skin Cancer Screening

June 4, 2024 by VitalSkin Dermatology

Cropped view of dermatologist applying marks on skin of naked woman with melanoma isolated on white

Early detection plays a pivotal role in health and well-being, particularly when it comes to conditions as serious as skin cancer. A skin cancer screening provides an invaluable opportunity to identify and address skin anomalies such as melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. With the rise in skin cancer rates globally, understanding the importance of these screenings and the crucial role they play in cancer prevention cannot be overstressed.

The Importance of Skin Cancer Screening

Skin cancer is a significant public health concern in the United States, with millions of cases diagnosed each year. It’s essential to understand that skin cancer can affect anyone, regardless of age or background. Early skin cancer detection allows for prompt treatment, reducing the likelihood of the cancer spreading and increasing the chances of successful intervention. Beyond detection, skin cancer screenings also serve an educational purpose, helping individuals recognize warning signs and adopt preventive measures to protect their skin.

Common Risk Factors for Skin Cancer

Some common risks include genetic factors, such as possessing a large number of atypical moles and having a personal or family history of skin cancer, environmental and lifestyle factors, like frequent and intense exposure to UV radiation from the sun or tanning beds, and having fair skin. 

Individuals with these risk factors, especially those with a history of severe sunburns, older age, or weakened immune systems, should consider scheduling a skin cancer screening with VitalSkin Dermatology as a proactive measure for maintaining skin health.

What to Expect During a Skin Cancer Screening

The first step is an initial consultation when you arrive for your skin cancer screening. Here, your dermatologist will ask about your medical history, any skin changes you’ve noticed, and your sun exposure habits. This information helps the specialist understand your risk factors and tailor the examination to your needs.

Types of Skin Cancer Examinations

During the skin cancer exam, your dermatologist will thoroughly inspect your skin. This involves several steps:

  • Visual Inspection: The dermatologist examines your skin for any visible abnormalities, looking for new moles or changes in existing ones.
  • Palpation: By feeling the skin, the specialist checks for unusual lumps or bumps under the surface.
  • Dermoscopy: A dermoscope is used to get a clearer view of the skin’s surface. This device magnifies and illuminates moles or other lesions, helping to distinguish benign from malignant changes.

If any suspicious lesions are found, a biopsy may be performed. A biopsy involves removing a small sample of skin tissue for laboratory analysis to determine the presence of cancer cells. Your dermatologist might use different biopsy techniques depending on the suspected type of skin cancer. These can include a shave biopsy, where only the top layers of skin are removed, or an excisional biopsy, where an entire lump or suspicious area is removed.

Follow-up Skin Cancer Procedures

If the biopsy results indicate the presence of skin cancer, your dermatologist will discuss the next steps with you, which may include further testing and treatment options. These can vary depending on the type and stage of the cancer but may involve surgical removal, radiation, or topical chemotherapy. If the biopsy is negative, the dermatologist will recommend a suitable follow-up schedule to monitor your skin over time, ensuring any future changes are caught early.

Do You Need To Prepare For A Skin Cancer Screening?

You don’t need to do anything special when preparing for a skin cancer exam. Just make sure you have time for the exam and know how to get to the office. If you have any questions or concerns, write them down so you can remember to ask them during the exam.

How Long Does a Skin Cancer Screening Take?

A skin cancer screening typically takes 10 to 30 minutes, depending on various factors such as the thoroughness of the examination and the number of moles or lesions to be evaluated.

Dermatologist Skin Cancer Treatment

Once a diagnosis is confirmed, your dermatologist will discuss treatment options that best suit your condition based on the type and stage of skin cancer. Treatment might include:

  1. Mohs Surgery: Mohs Surgery is particularly effective for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. This procedure involves removing the cancer layer by layer and examining each layer under a microscope until no abnormal cells remain.
  2. Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy might be recommended if surgery isn’t an option. Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to target and kill cancer cells.
  3. Chemotherapy: For cancers that have spread beyond the skin, chemotherapy may be necessary. This treatment uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Topical chemotherapy may also be used to address skin cancer where surgery may not be the preferred treatment.

Post-treatment Monitoring

Following treatment, ongoing monitoring is essential to prevent recurrence. This includes regular follow-up visits with your dermatologist, typically every three to six months initially and then less frequently over time. During these visits, your skin will be examined for any new lesions; if so, they will be addressed promptly.

Early intervention for skin cancer remains the most effective strategy against the disease, highlighting the need for awareness and action. Remember, safeguarding against skin cancer starts with you; each step towards regular screening is a step towards a healthier future. The board-certified dermatologists at VitalSkin are experienced in skin screenings and skin cancer evaluations for accurate diagnosis. Through our innovative and effective treatments, we strive to help you become and remain cancer-free. Schedule an appointment at one of our medical dermatology offices today.

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