Skin Cancer Screening: Preventative Medicine for Healthy Skin

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man who has sun burn

Well I finally got in for my skin cancer screening. I am happy to say it went well. It took a while due to COVID-19 (please refer to CDC & WHO websites for current updates). As I’ve said before I used to be a sun worshipper. It’s what we did back in the day. I spent hours sitting out in the sun. I ended up with many sun burns, not to the point where there were blisters, but I did get pretty red.

If we had nasal problems (sinuses) we were told to get out in the sun and bake it out, so to speak. Just to be out of the house was a treat growing up.

These days I am now reminded with the sun damage. Sun exposure is bad. It is very harmful to our skin. It starts with injury to the skin as sunburn and any skin tone can result with this, then this leads to sun damage or worse skin cancer.

UVA and UVB rays penetrate the epidermis and sometimes beyond and can go through glass. Being inside near a window for an extended time can also be exposure to the sun.

Like your dental exam and vision exam, a skin cancer screening should be part of your health care routine.

If you haven’t had your skin cancer screening (AKA skin exam) yet this year, you still have time. It is important for your health.

bright sun
sun photo by Pixabay from Pexels.com

To Prepare for you Skin Cancer Screening

If you haven’t already, you would need to make an appointment with your Dermatologist. Depending on the doctors availability there may be a wait. Make a note of any spots you are concerned about.

Things to keep in mind before your visit. Your dermatologist is going to look at your skin (nails and hair) make this easy to do.

Make-up and nail polish should not be worn to the exam. Hair should be loose so dermatologist can check your scalp.

It is a good idea to not wear jewelry either, you may be asked to remove it.

What is a Skin Exam?

A skin cancer screening is a service done by your dermatologist. This is preventative medicine that should be covered by your health insurance. It is a visual exam to check your moles, birthmarks, sun damage and to look for skin changes that may present concerns. You can also keep track of your spots by doing a self-exam monthly. A skin cancer screening is highly recommended yearly. The dermatologist looks for any unusual color, size, shape or texture.

Benefits of a Skin Exam

  • It is the best way to note skin changes
  • To diagnosis other medical conditions (sun damage)
  • Early detection of skin cancers
  • Complete body check looks at areas not exposed to sun too

What to Expect from a Skin Exam

During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, (please refer to CDC & WHO websites for current updates) a mask is required to enter the facility. A member of the medical staff met me inside the entrance. I answered her questions concerning COVID-19 symptoms. My temperature was taken across my forehead with a device. A table with many disinfectants was inside the entrance also.

The medical staff were spaced apart and wearing their mask behind the counter. The receptionist verified my demographic information. In the waiting area chairs were marked off where not to sit.

A medical assistant called my name. I was lead back to a room and she made sure my medications and supplements were up to date. I was questioned about having many sun burns in my past, whether I wore sunscreen and a hat, if any family members had skin cancer and if I used a tanning bed. She inquired if I had any areas of concern and made notes for the dermatologist.

I was then given instructions to change to a gown and be seated on the recliner for the dermatologist.  She mentioned I could keep my underwear on if I felt more comfortable. You may request to have a nurse present if this would make you more comfortable. Some may be uneasy undressing for their physician, this is ok it is not an inconvenience. By all means ask.

The gown opening should be in the back. The MA then pulled the curtain to block the door and left the room.

There is a rap on the door and the dermatologist and MA enter. The dermatologist begins to examine my skin with her dermatoscope (this just fits in the palm of her hand) it has a light and magnifying glass. She inquired about my concerns and I pointed out some spots.

The dermatologist examines your skin head to toe (toes are separated) consisting; of your scalp, behind the ears, fingers, toes, buttocks and genitals. It may be embarrassing to some but the importance to get checked far out weights this feeling. The exam should take about 15 minutes. You can do this!

I have a lot of seborrheic keratosis (SK) sun damage, everywhere. And surprisingly a milia on my nose near the eye. Many nevi, all harmless. I will continue to keep an eye on my spots for changes.

Somewhat of a relief to have the spots verified by a professional. Now I will just repeat this next year.

Risk Factors for Skin Cancer

  • Fair or light skin tone
  • Blond or red hair
  • Light eye color (blue or green)
  • Skin which burns and/or freckles easily
  • Having a history of sunburns
  • Family and/or personal history of skin cancer
  • Frequent sun exposure through work or activities
  • Having many moles (nevi)

(Check out Skin Cancer images and celebrities).

Skin Cancer Types

Two of the most common types of skin cancer are Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) and Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC). These rarely spread to organs or other parts of the body. When found early, they are usually curable with treatment.

Melanoma is a deadly form of skin cancer that spreads quickly. It can metastasize to internal organs. It is less common.

With the aid of a skin cancer screening a cancer may be discovered early making it easier to treat (this is the best scenario).

If there is a skin cancer suspected a biopsy is taken for a diagnosis.

A Biopsy

For a biopsy the dermatologist removes a small specimen of tissue for the pathologist. The area of skin is cleaned, an injection of anesthesia is given to numb it and a blade or scalpel is used to take the sample off. This is mostly painless there is just a pinch from the injection.

The sample is sent to the lab and examined by pathology under a microscope. The doctor will call you when the results are available. Usually it takes a couple days but may be a week or more.

If the spot does come back cancerous the doctor will discuss completely removing it or other treatment methods.

Early detection is key. The Skin Cancer Foundation has a program called Robins Nest for support and guidance to help you through your skin cancer diagnosis.  They offer many support groups, I have listed some on this site.

Any area can develop skin cancer. It is a 15 minute service. Have you gone for your skin cancer screening this year? You can do this!

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Header Photo by VisionPic.net from Pexels

Mary is this blogs owner. Former esthetician and CPC. Enjoys researching skincare and has been studying our skin for the past fourteen years.

Disclaimer:

The listing or mention of an organization, website or product is not meant as an endorsement or promotional purposes of any kind but simply to educate and pass on information.

This website is for informational purposes and not for diagnosis.

If you have a health condition or concern, please consult your doctor.

Researching content:

https://www.skincancer.org/get-involved/skin-cancer-awareness-month/toolkit/  accessed 08/28/2020

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