Spring is here, and the sun is starting to shine. Before you begin laying out this beach season, be sure to get your annual skin exam. Skin checks are an essential part of your healthcare. Skin checks for abnormal moles or growths are basic sun safety that should be practiced year-round.
Spending time in the sun can bring out freckles and spots you didn’t even know you had. Thus, it can be challenging to determine which spots are normal or if they need to be examined by a medical professional. It is imperative that when something odd does appear, it gets diagnosed and treated correctly. Early detection of skin cancer is the key to minimal treatment and successful outcomes.
The skin is the largest organ of the body, and more people are diagnosed with skin cancer than any other form. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, about half of melanomas are self-detected. It is important to schedule annual skin checks, but you should also monitor your skin all year.
Fortunately, checking your body for signs of skin cancer is as easy as singing the ABCs. Using a mirror in a well-lit room, examine your body, paying close attention to all of your spots such as moles, freckles, and age spots. Look for the signs below:
A – Asymmetry: One half is unlike the other half.
B – Border: Irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined.
C – Color: Varies from one area to another. Shades of dark purple, blue or black; sometimes red or white.
D – Diameter: While skin cancer varies and grows rapidly, melanomas are usually larger than the size of a pencil eraser (6mm).
E – Elevation: If your mole is extremely raised or not smooth, it could be a cause for concern. Skin cancer tends to cause changes, so any visible change to the mole, especially over a short period of time, may cause concern.
After your self-skin check, record your spots to keep track of anything changes or irregularities. If you find any suspicious spots on your body, please call us to schedule an appointment with your dermatologist.
In-Office Skin Checks
If you identify a spot that needs to be examined or you are preparing for your first skin check, it is helpful to know what to expect. Here are things you can expect:
- Before you arrive at your appointment, remember to wear your hair down and have bare nails, as your doctor will need to examine the skin on your scalp and your nails.
- During a skin check exam, your dermatologist will provide a gown for you to wear. The doctor will examine your skin from head to toe, looking for any abnormalities.
- They may use a magnifying instrument called a dermatoscope to get a better view of the skin. If you identified any areas of concern through your self-skin check, it is important to share them with your physician during the exam.
- If your dermatologist does find something suspicious, they may request a biopsy, a test to determine if the skin is cancerous.
- Do not panic! Biopsies are relatively straightforward. Your physician will numb the skin and take a small sample to send to our pathology lab for testing. Your skin should heal within a week.
- If you find out that you have a melanoma, know that skin cancer is very common and treatable. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “when detected early, the 5-year survival rate of melanoma is 99%.”
Detecting skin cancer is as easy as ABC. Remember to check your skin at home throughout the year and schedule annual skin checks with our dermatologists. You play a vital role in your health when it comes to your skin. At Anne Arundel Dermatology, our team specializes in identifying pre-cancerous moles and taking the proper treatment course. To make an appointment, contact us online or call us at 443-351-3376.