Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer. Although not everyone will develop this form of skin cancer, it’s still important to check suspicious moles regularly to ensure there are no malignant areas of skin on your body. Learn more about how frequently he should schedule a skin check before your first appointment at Steele Creek Dermatology in Charlotte, NC.
How Often Should You Test for Skin Cancer?
In general, most healthy people between the ages of 20 and 40 who are at relatively low risk for developing cancer should schedule a skin exam at least every one to three years. Low-risk individuals are typically those who have good sun care habits, who have not had severe sunburns in the past, and who have clear, relatively healthy skin.
High-risk patients will need to have a skin check more frequently than low-risk patients. Many high-risk patients can schedule yearly skin checks or may need to schedule skin exams every three to six months, particularly for patients who are recovering from a previous cancer diagnosis. High-risk patients include those who have a large number of moles on the body, those who live in sunny environments, and those who have had cancer previously.
What About Self Exams?
When it comes to your skin, you are generally the person who is most knowledgeable about what is normal for your skin’s health. Because you’re living in your skin every day, you will be the first person to notice any unusual marks, dry patches, or growths. You should perform a self-exam at least once a month and make a note of any suspicious areas on your body, including new moles, freckles, or other changes to your skin.
When Should You Schedule a Skin Check?
It’s crucial to schedule a skin check when you show symptoms of possible cancer. Some people may schedule a skin check after a self-exam when they find new growth on the skin. Some signs you may need to schedule a skin check as soon as possible include:
Although freckles can turn up at any time due to sun exposure and conditions such as melasma are associated with hormonal changes, it’s still a good idea to schedule a skin exam when you notice any new spots on your body. You will want to schedule an exam with a dermatologist if you notice a new mole or a new growth on the skin.
Most people have freckles and moles, so what makes a mole unusual? You can generally assess whether or not a spot is unusual by comparing it to other spots on your body. For example, if most of your moles are fairly dark and round in appearance, but a new mole is lighter and has irregular borders, this could be a sign that you are dealing with an abnormal growth on the skin.
There may be other signs that you are experiencing abnormal growth on the skin. Some forms of cancer do not present as suspicious moles or freckles. Instead, some cancers present with spots of skin that continually bleed, itch, or shed. Abnormal growths similar to warts or raised moles may also be a cause for concern.
How Does Diagnosis Work?
When you visit a dermatologist for a skin check to diagnose potential cancer, a dermatologist will first give a visual examination of all of your skin to understand the baseline health and appearance of your skin. From there, a dermoscope or other similar device will be used to magnify the skin to evaluate for unusual borders, pigment, and texture.
For a formal diagnosis, it’s usually necessary to biopsy the patch of skin and have the skin tested in a lab. Oftentimes, the lab biopsy process will be enough to confirm a diagnosis of cancer, and from there you and your dermatologist will discuss the best treatment for you.
Does All Cancer Require Surgery?
Depending on how aggressive your cancer is, surgery may or may not be recommended. In general, surgery for cancers of the skin is preferred since this is minimally invasive and much easier to recover from than chemotherapy and other types of cancer treatment. Surgery for cancers of the skin is ideal if cancer has not spread to other areas of the body.
The most common types of surgery to remove cancer from the skin includes excision surgery, Mohs surgery, and curettage and electrodesiccation. Excision is the most common and least invasive treatment, and is ideal for both biopsy and removing early stages of cancer. Mohs surgery removes several layers of skin at a time, while curettage and electrodesiccation will remove and cauterize remaining cancer cells.
Schedule a Skin Check Today
If you think you have a suspicious mole or another unusual patch of skin, the best thing you can do is be proactive and schedule a skin check as soon as possible. High-risk patients should schedule a skin exam once a year, while low-risk patients may be able to schedule these exams once every three years. To learn more about your treatment options, get in touch with Steele Creek Dermatology in Charlotte, NC today.