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With your skin being the largest organ of your body, seeing a dermatologist at least once a year is an important step in maintaining healthy skin. Most skin conditions, if caught early, are 100% curable. While a skin cancer screening only takes about 15 minutes, you may be wondering what to expect during this yearly exam.

 

What is Skin Cancer?

As you may have read in last week’s blog, What Does Skin Cancer Look Like?, the term “skin cancer” refers to three different conditions: basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and melanoma. BCC and SCC are referred to as non-melanoma skin cancers and are the most common forms of skin cancer. They are rarely life-threatening, but can be locally destructive to tissue. Melanoma is generally the most serious form of cancer because it can metastasize (or spread) throughout our body quickly. According to SkinCancer.org, between 40 and 50 percent of Americans who live to the age of 65 will have either BCC or SCC at least once.

 

What to Expect During a Skin Cancer Screening

It is very important to be aware of concerning areas on your body, as well as watching for any changing spots. At the beginning of your appointment, you will be asked to remove your clothing and change into a gown, leaving on undergarments. During your exam, your medical provider will be thorough, examining from head to toe. While closely inspecting all parts of the body, this exam will also include the scalp and between the toes.

During this check, it is possible that your dermatologist will notice something unusual. Though you may worry, being overly cautious is better than ignoring an unusual spot. If they send out a mole or freckle to be biopsied, you will know your results within two weeks. From there, you can discuss treatment options.

While you cannot guarantee that one day you will not get skin cancer, protecting your skin every single day is the best way to prevent possible cancerous developments. It is also important to give yourself regular skin checks at home, especially since you typically only see a dermatologist once or twice per year. Reviewing your skin at least every three months is recommended in order to watch certain freckles or moles, documenting any changes with time.