Did you know that skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among adults in the United States? Your risk of getting skin cancer increases as you age, especially if you have light or fair skin and a history of sun exposure. Roughly 20% of Americans will get skin cancer.
While there are different types and severities of skin cancer, they all have this in common: the risk of complication and even death associated with skin cancers is minimized when these are caught by your doctor early. Cancers that are discovered earlier in their development are smaller, less likely to require aggressive treatments, and less likely to have spread to other parts of the body. This is why it is so important to have your skin checked regularly for any abnormal lesions. An added benefit of annual skin checks is that they give you the chance to discuss and address any benign aesthetic concerns about your skin, such as melasma or cysts, with your doctor.
What is my doctor looking for during an annual skin check?
During an annual skin check, your doctor will examine your entire body, looking for abnormalities of the skin. These may be discolorations or moles with a specific shape that your doctor is trained to recognize as a sign of damaged cells. You can contribute to the efficacy of your skin check by telling your doctor about any moles that have recently changed in size, texture, or shape.
What should I expect if my doctor finds something abnormal?
If your doctor finds something that looks as though it may be abnormal, you will have a minor biopsy of the affected area. While this may seem scary, it is a minor procedure, and you can expect your skin to heal within a week or two.
Your doctor will perform the biopsy after numbing the area with a local anesthetic, usually with small injections of lidocaine. When the skin is completely numb, your doctor will remove a small portion of the skin with a scalpel, and the sample will be collected so that it can be further analyzed. Usually, the resulting wound is small enough to be covered by a band-aid. Your physician will give you specific care instructions for healing, which is relatively simple and fast for most patients. It is important to follow these recommendations to prevent infection as your skin heals.
Your doctor will send the sample to a laboratory for further testing. Specially trained pathologists will conduct further testing of the skin to determine what, if any, irregularities exist. Within a few days, you will know if and what type of abnormal cell growth is present and if any additional treatment is necessary.
When caught early, skin cancers are highly treatable
Don’t make the mistake of allowing abnormal cells to grow out of control. If you have your skin checked regularly by someone who is highly-trained to know what to look for, problem areas, which are at the pre-cancerous or early cancer stage, can be easily treated. Even an aggressive skin cancer such as melanoma has a very high survival rate (98% for five years) if caught before it has the chance to spread to the lymph nodes.
If you have a history of skin cancer, your doctor may recommend that you get checked more often than once per year. As there is little to no risk associated with having a regular skin check, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by this important preventive measure. It’s a relatively fast and easy investment that could save your life!
Don’t take a chance in allowing something that would be easily treatable to grow into a deadly disease. Call 408.559.7177 to schedule your skin check today!