What is a skin cancer screening?
A skin cancer screening is a thorough, full-body examination of the skin by a board-certified dermatologist. During the exam, the doctor will gather a family history to determine any factors that may put you at a higher risk of developing skin cancer. Some common risk factors include:
- A history of severe sunburns
- A history of abnormal moles
- A history of tanning bed use
- Family history of melanoma
- The presence of more than 50 moles
- History of an organ transplant
- Fair skin, light eyes or blond or red hair
After the interview portion of the screening, the doctor will begin the skin examination. The exam typically takes only a few minutes as the doctor checks the skin from head to toe, including the scalp, face, feet and between the fingers and toes. If any areas appear unusual, the doctor may examine them more closely using a magnifying tool.
For areas that appear suspicious, you will be scheduled for a biopsy to remove a portion of the tissue and examine it under a microscope. The doctor will numb the area after which there should be no pain during or after the procedure apply an anesthetic. After removal, the tissue is sent to a laboratory for testing to determine if the cells are cancerous.
The “ABCDE” Mole Examination
During a skin cancer screening, a dermatologist is looking for specific characteristics that are signs of possible skin cancer in a mole or other skin growth. The factors are known as the “ABCDEs” of a mole. If a doctor identifies any of the characteristics of an abnormal mole, they may perform a biopsy and submit the tissue for further testing. The “ABCDEs” of a mole include:
- Asymmetry: One part of the mole is different from the other
- Border Irregularity: Blurry, uneven or jagged edges
- Color: Color variations in the mole, or the presence of white or blue spots
- Diameter: Moles larger than 6 mm, or the size of a pencil eraser
- Evolving: Moles that change in size, shape, color or border
Atlanta Skin Cancer Treatments
If a dermatologist performs a biopsy, and the tissue is determined to be cancerous, the doctor will develop a treatment plan based on the type and stage of cancer. For some basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas, there are safe and very effective treatments available. Common treatments can include surgical removal using a scalpel, freezing, laser surgery and Mohs surgery. Some early cancers can be treated with a cream
More advanced forms of skin cancer or those that have spread may be treated more aggressively. After removal of the cancerous tissue, a patient may receive radiation therapy or in some extreme cases, chemotherapy. Buckhead Dermatology will provide you with all of the information you need to make the best treatment decisions for your skin.
Skin Cancer Prevention
One of the most effective ways of reducing your risk of developing skin cancer is protecting yourself from the sun. Intense or frequent exposure to the sun can significantly increase your risk, especially if you have a history of skin cancer in your family. Follow these guidelines for skin cancer prevention:
- Do not use tanning beds
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- Always wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or greater
- Perform monthly self-exams of your skin to monitor for any new or changing moles
- Wear protective clothing such as a hat, long sleeves and neck protection when outdoors
- Avoid exposure during the middle of the day when the UV (Ultra Violet) rays are strongest