What We Look for During a Skin Exam
Detecting skin cancer early is often the top priority during a full-body skin exam. Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the United States, but treatment is extremely effective if the cancer is caught early. Therefore, our dermatologists will look for new moles, growths, or discoloration and monitor existing moles for any changes.
What Happens During a Skin Exam?
During the exam, your dermatologist will inspect your skin, looking for discoloration or lesions in each part of the body. You may be asked to wear a gown during the exam if necessary.
While performing the exam, your dermatologist will take note of any conditions they observe in your skin. Some conditions include:
- Actinic keratosis: These are precancerous lesions caused by sun damage to the skin that appear as rough patches or thick, scaly spots on different parts of the body with a sandpaper-like texture.
- Basal cell carcinoma: This is the most common form of cancer in the United States and usually appears as a pearly or waxy bump on areas of skin that receive frequent exposure to sunlight, such as the face and hands.
- Squamous cell carcinoma: These are rough growths or lesions that appear raised or flat depending on the severity. They can also appear scaly, crusty, red and inflamed, like a pimple.
- Melanoma: This is one of the most severe forms of skin cancer. It can appear as a new, unusual growth or stem from an existing mole.
- Sebaceous hyperplasia: This condition appears as unusually large skin glands that look like tiny bumps (sometimes called an “oil gland”). They are most often found near the corners of lips, eyes, nostrils and genitals.
Who Should Get a Skin Exam?
Experts recommend that everyone receive a skin exam at least once a year. However, suppose you have risk factors for developing skin cancer, such as long-term sun exposure, history of skin cancer, red hair or fair complexion. In that case, your dermatologist may recommend that you visit them more often than other patients.
How to Prepare for Your Appointment
To help make the most out of your appointment, you can prepare by:
- Performing a self-exam before the appointment and making a note of anything new or unusual that you notice
- Remove nail polish from your fingers and toes
- Bring makeup remover or plan not to wear makeup at all
- Prepare a list of any questions that you have about your skin, skin cancer, or other dermatological concerns
What Happens After Your Exam?
If your provider does not find anything suspicious during your skin exam, that’s great! They may schedule you for another appointment in one year. However, if they find something unusual or suspicious, they will take a biopsy to send for testing.
Our state-of-the-art skin pathology lab will process and analyze the sample to determine if it is cancerous or benign. Once the samples have been skillfully evaluated, they are electronically reported directly back to the provider.
With our rapid turnaround times and quality processing, patients are able to receive and understand their diagnosis as soon as possible.
If skin cancer is detected, your dermatology office will reach back out to you to schedule an appointment to discuss treatment options.