The Skin Cancer Foundation informs us that 1 in 5 Americans will develop some form of skin cancer before the age of 70. Indeed, skin cancer is the most pervasive cancer both in the U.S. and around the globe. While these statistics are shocking and worth everyone’s concern, people can reduce their personal risk of developing skin cancer in a number of ways. In addition to wearing sunscreen and protective clothing year-round, it’s important to have your skin examined by a dermatologist on a regular basis.
In this article, we will go over what a skin cancer screening entails and why they’re effective at catching skin cancer early on.
Skin cancer screenings are visual examinations of one’s entire body aimed at detecting early signs of skin cancer or potential risk factors. Individuals can conduct screenings on themselves, but a dermatologist can do a more thorough job and discover problems patients might miss. The screenings specifically look at features such as moles, birthmarks, and lesions. If these markings display any changes or abnormalities (i.e. irregular shape, size, or color, sensitivity or pain when touched, etc.), further testing is often warranted.
Most commonly, dermatologists will perform a biopsy wherever a potentially problematic mole or lesion is found. This process involves numbing the area in question and then removing a necessary portion of the skin for further inspection in a lab. Using a high-powered microscope and other means, your doctor and their technicians will look for the presence of cancer cells. If cancer is present, your dermatologist will deliver a skin cancer prognosis or diagonosis, depending on the circumstances. From there, they will go over treatment options and your next steps.
Unlike some other types of cancer, skin cancer is often completely curable, especially when it’s caught and dealt with early in its development. In fact, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the 5-year survivial rate for melanoma is 99% when detected early. Skin cancer screenings are designed to detect skin cancer in its earliest stages. By undergoing these screenings on a routine basis, then, you greatly increase your chances of making a full recovery, should you receive a diagnosis.
Because skin cancer is so prevalent, everyone can benefit from getting screened. To be safe, the average person should get checked every one or two years, depending on various factors. Those with certain skin types, conditions, and family medical histories should be screened for skin cancer more often than this (i.e. every 6-12 months). Having fair skin, light hair and eyes, several moles, and a lifestyle that warrants prolonged sun exposure, for example, are all potential skin cancer risk factors.
Keeping tabs on your own skin is important, as your dermatologist can’t see you every day. As mentioned earlier, you can conduct your own skin cancer screenings in between doctor visits by taking 5-10 minutes out of your day to check your moles. Make sure you know what to look for by either calling your dermatologist or researching trusted online sources. If you’re alone, use a handheld mirror to inspect areas your eyes wouldn’t otherwise be able to see, such as your back or behind your ears. Or, if you’re with a trusted partner, ask them to help you examine your moles and birthmarks and remark on any points of concern.
Skin cancer may be common, but it’s also highly curable. And the sooner you find it, the better off you’ll be. At Premier Dermatology Partners, we aim to educate our patients about these matters so they can take steps to improve the health of their skin and body. To learn more about our providers and all the services we offer, contact us today.