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Skin Cancer Screening and Treatment

Each year, nearly six million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed and treated in the United States.

If that seems like a high number, it’s because it is – there are more cases of skin cancer every year than all other types of cancer combined. In fact, one in five people will be diagnosed with some form of skin cancer by the time they reach 70. At The Clinic for Dermatology & Wellness, the primary interest of our dermatological staff is the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer. We recommend that our patients schedule regular full-body skin exams and skin cancer screenings to ensure that your skin remains healthy and cancer-free.

How to Prepare for Your Full-Body Skin Exam

Prior to your exam, you should perform your own check, so that you are aware of any areas that may need a more in-depth look. Skin cancer doesn’t just affect the areas that are exposed to the sun, so be sure to check for spots on your scalp, behind your ears, under your arms and around your genitals. If there are any new growths that concern you, ask your provider. Additionally, if you notice any existing growths or moles that have changed in size, shape or color, or have started to itch or bleed.

You will also want to remove any makeup or nail polish (on both your fingers and toes) before your exam, so that your provider can see if there are any suspicious spots under your nails.

What to Expect at Your Full-Body Skin Exam

When you come in for your full-body exam, you will disrobe to the level you are comfortable with, and put on a gown. Some patients choose not to remove their undergarments, which is up to your personal preference, but this means that your provider cannot check the covered areas for unusual spots.

If it is your first appointment with us, your provider will go over your medical history as well as your family history of cancer and your potential risk factors for cancer. They will take a look at any areas you may wish to point out, and then begin your full-body skin exam.

During your exam, your provider will check you from head-to-toe, making a note of any spots you may have mentioned, as well as others that may warrant monitoring or further examination. The full-body skin exam covers every area that has skin, including your scalp, face, eyes and eyelids, mouth, ears, hands, fingernails, torso, feet and toenails.

What We Look For During a Full-Body Skin Exam

Your provider is examining the moles on your skin to note the “ABCDEs” of each one, which can all be possible indicators of skin cancer such as:

Melanoma

  • Asymmetry – Different shapes on each side of the mole
  • Border irregularity – Uneven or ragged edges
  • Color – Different shades of brown or black
  • Diameter – Larger than 1/4 inch
  • Evolving – Has changed over time

Squamous Cell Cancer

  • Red, rough scaly lesions with or without a “horn”

Basal Cell Cancer

  • Opalescent (shiny) lesions
  • Non-healing ulcers (wounds “eating” down into the skin)
  • Pale white patches of skin with red blood vessels
  • Abnormal changes in existing lesions or new lesions that are rapidly changing
  • Dark “bumps” with extension down into the skin
  • Other findings and/or changes in the skin that show as atypical for the patient’s body, natural skin color and health history

If there are small spots or ones that require a closer look, your provider will use a dermatoscope, which is a device that combines a magnifier and light so that we can get a better look at spots that aren’t as visible to the naked eye. If your provider finds a suspicious spot, they may measure it and monitor it over time. If it looks more serious, you may need to get the spot biopsied. A biopsy is an in-office procedure where your provider will numb the area with a local anesthetic, and then either scrape off a sample of the lesion or use a punch tool to get deeper layers of skin. The sample is sent for lab processing, and you will most likely receive your results in a week to 10 days.

A full-body skin exam typically takes about 10 minutes, and if a biopsy is necessary, we are typically able to perform the biopsy during your examination. In situations where a patient’s health, upcoming out-of-the-area travel, or high number of areas to biopsy, we may schedule your biopsy(s) to be conducted at a follow-up appointment.

At The Clinic for Dermatology & Wellness, we encourage everyone to make an appointment for a full-body skin exam. It is a quick and painless way to ensure that you don’t have any signs of skin cancer (or for early detection), and most people only need to come in once a year. Call our office today at (541) 200-2777 to schedule an appointment.