In addition to regular self-exams, those at high risk for skin cancer (such as those with a family history or a considerable number of moles) should be screened by a doctor. The most effective screening method is a full-body skin exam performed by a dermatologist.
For most people over 50, this means yearly appointments.
What Is a Skin Exam?
A skin exam allows a dermatologist to look at your entire body, identifying and discussing any concerns. They will use tools like a dermatoscopy to provide a deeper, more accurate look than the naked eye at moles, blemishes, and freckles. This gives them a better chance of spotting a spot that could be a skin cancer in its earliest stage, which is usually more easily cured than those found in later stages.
People with a history of sunburns and other melanoma risk factors should see a dermatologist for regular skin examinations. However, those with reduced immunity or a personal or family history of skin cancer may need to be seen more often than once a year. Talk to your doctor about your risk and lifestyle to determine the best screening schedule. You may also be advised to perform self-exams every month. This involves examining each area of your skin and noting any changes over time.
What Is a Dermatoscope?
A dermatoscopy (also known as “skin surface microscopy” or “chemiluminescence microscopy”) is a handheld magnifying device that can be used to help diagnose skin cancer. It’s like a tiny microscope with built-in light and polarised lenses to reduce reflections off the skin surface. The newest versions are even more advanced, with some able to capture and store digital images independently or connect to digital cameras for more in-depth skin viewing.
The dermatoscopy is most commonly used to evaluate pigmented skin lesions, such as melanomas or other melanocytic (brown) spots. It can also help assess non-pigmented skin lesions such as basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma. However, it is essential to note that some features of certain conditions may be easier to detect on lighter skin tones, so it’s always good to remember that a visual inspection with a dermatoscopy does not replace a full-body examination.
What Is a Skin Biopsy?
A skin biopsy is an essential diagnostic procedure to help determine the cause of a skin lesion. It may be done to diagnose skin cancer, such as basal and squamous cell carcinoma. It may also be performed to help diagnose a skin ulcer or inflammatory condition. A biopsy is performed in the doctor’s office and is usually painless.
Before the procedure begins, your dermatologist will wipe the area with alcohol or another antiseptic and inject a medicine that numbs the area. You might feel a burning sensation for a few seconds.
The type of biopsy your dermatologist will perform depends on the location and size of the skin growth. For example, for a shave biopsy, the doctor will use a tool that looks like a razor blade to shave off a thin layer of the growth, including some more profound layers of the skin. The doctor will use a tool with a round tip to remove a small tissue core from the lesion for a punch biopsy.
What Can I Expect from a Skin Exam?
During the skin examination Midland MI, your doctor will note any marks on your skin that may look abnormal, like a new mole or a changing one. They’ll ask when it first appeared, if anything has changed, and about your past sun exposure (including how often you’ve been sunburned).
If your dermatologist suspects that you have a spot or lesion that is potentially cancerous, they’ll probably want to do a biopsy of it. This involves numbing the area with a shot of anesthetic and scraping off some of the tissue, which is then sent to the lab to be tested for signs of cancer.
A regular skin check can help prevent the development of cancerous lesions and even melanoma—the most deadly form of skin cancer. A routine annual skin exam and frequent self-exams are the best way to monitor your body and identify potential problems before they become serious.