Skin cancer can be deadly if not caught early. Dr. Brent Taylor is a board certified dermatologist and an expert in skin cancer detection and treatment. Full body skin examinations by a board certified dermatologist can help to ensure that your skin stays healthy and may even save your life. Contact Premier Dermatology to schedule a skin cancer screening.
What is a skin cancer screening?
A skin cancer screening is a visual inspection of your skin by a medical professional. During a skin exam, your dermatologist evaluates the skin for lesions or growths suspicious for skin cancer and looks for growths or rashes that can be a sign of internal disease. Sometimes, a dermatoscope is used. A dermatoscope is a specialized hand-held magnifying glass that can help a dermatologist make diagnoses by enlarging certain features which may reveal signs that are not visible to the naked eye.
Why are skin cancer screenings necessary?
Skin cancer screenings can be life-saving. If cancers are caught early, they can often be treated with little downtime and almost no chance for recurrence. The most poignant example is melanoma. A melanoma caught at a very early stage is often cured with a standard surgical excision or Mohs surgery. If a melanoma is caught after it has already spread to lymph nodes, then surgery is not enough and even chemotherapy may not result in cure. Skin cancer screenings offer people the chance to catch cancers early when cures are much more easily obtained.
Even for cancers such as basal cell carcinoma that have little chance of spreading, skin cancer screenings prevent morbidity (the damage that cancers cause even if they do not threaten one’s life). In some areas, every millimeter matters. For example, on the tip of the nose, a basal cell carcinoma caught when it is tiny can often be removed leaving a small wound that can be easily sutured shut. A larger basal cell carcinoma on the nose may require extensive reconstruction.
Screening for cancers is only reasonable if a cancer is somewhat common: skin cancer is the most common of all cancers with over 5.4 million non-melanoma cancers diagnosed in over 3.3 million people in the US every year. The key to spotting skin cancer is regular self-examination combined with annual skin cancer screenings performed by a specialist in dermatology.
How often should I receive a skin exam?
How often you should receive a skin cancer screening is determined by whether or not you or a family member has ever had a skin cancer, as well as other risk factors such as frequency of sun burns, tanning bed use, and ethnicity. If you have any risk factors or a new or changing spot, a baseline skin exam is advisable, and your dermatologist can then advise you about how often you should receive skin exams in the future.
If you have had a skin cancer of any type in the last five years, Dr. Taylor recommends that you receive a skin exam at least once every six months. After a new diagnosis of melanoma, skin exams every three months is usually advised.
Who will provide the skin cancer screening?
Skin cancer screenings at Premier Dermatology will be performed by board certified dermatologist, Dr. Brent Taylor. Board certified dermatologists are highly trained in detecting skin cancer in its earliest, most easily treatable stage and treating it accordingly. Furthermore, as a fellowship-trained Mohs surgeon, Dr. Taylor has extensive knowledge on all skin cancer treatment options and can help counsel you if a treatment plan is ever needed.
How long with the screening take?
Skin cancer screenings typically take 10 minutes but may take longer if there is any area of concern or a history of melanoma.
Which areas of my body will be screened for skin cancer and what can I expect?
Skin cancer surveillance/skin exams are performed in private patient rooms. Patients will be asked to change into a patient gown and may keep undergarments on. You may choose to have a guest/family member with you in the room during the appointment. Before the examination, Dr. Taylor will take a medical history including a family skin cancer history. Please point out any spots of concern or any moles that you have noticed changing. Unless you request an exam from the waist up, you will then receive a head to toe examination starting with the scalp, head, and neck working towards the trunk and extremities.
Do skin exams include the genital region?
Patients may leave their under garments on during the skin exam. The breast, buttocks and groin can be examined if you allow. You will be asked if there is anything of concern that you would like examined. If you have any spots of concern in these areas, please bring them to the attention of the physician.
What will happen if the doctor finds something suspicious?
Suspicious lesions are treated a variety of ways. First, the doctor could chose to simply monitor it over time. Often, a biopsy of the spot is taken that day and sent to an outside pathology lab for analysis. Lab results are generally received in 7-14 days, at which time you will be contacted with the results. If a skin cancer is detected, the physician will have you return for treatment or removal of the lesion.
Contact Premier Dermatology and Mohs Surgery of Atlanta today to schedule a consultation and learn more about skin cancer screenings.