Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. Early detection is critical to successful treatment, so it’s important to have yearly skin exams by a doctor, and to check your own body periodically.
Skin Cancer and Early Detection
The three main types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. All three are mostly due to sun exposure (UV rays), with basal cell carcinoma being the most common. Melanoma is the most dangerous. Early detection of melanoma can significantly reduce both illness and mortality. The risk of dying from the disease, in fact, is directly related to the depth of the cancer, which is directly related to the amount of time it has been growing unnoticed. For this reason, earlier detection leads to thinner cancers and saves lives.
When you check your own body for skin cancer, follow the “ABCDE rule”. This will help you to look for some of the common signs of melanoma:
A – Asymmetry: One part of a mole doesn’t match the other
B – Borders: The border of the mole is irregular
C – Color: There are multiple colors in the mole
D – Diameter: the diameter of the mole is greater than about ¼ of an inch
E – Evolving: The mole has changed in size, shape or color over time
What To Expect From A Skin Cancer Screening
While you can, and should, check your own body for unusual moles and marks and changes to them, a yearly full-body exam by a doctor is also recommended. Your family doctor can do a skin exam, but if there is anything abnormal, you will be referred to a dermatologist who has special training in treating issues that affect the skin. A dermatologist will usually give a more in-depth exam – especially helpful for the hard to see areas such as scalp, back, and bottoms of the feet.
A skin cancer screening only takes 10 minutes. You are examined from head to toe. Photos of moles or growths may be taken to monitor size, shape, and color from one visit to the next. If a lesion looks suspicious, a skin biopsy might be performed. A skin biopsy takes a few minutes and is painless since normally a numbing material is used. Results from the biopsy typically take one week.
Skin cancer can be cured, but it’s important to be vigilant and check your skin on a regular basis. At Advanced Specialty Care, our dermatology specialists can conduct a skin cancer screening to ensure that you are properly diagnosed and treated. In addition to skin cancer, we specialize in general medical, surgical and cosmetic dermatology, including acne, eczema, spider veins, warts, hair loss, rashes, psoriasis, and scars. Our dermatology offices are located in the Fairfield County, CT towns of Danbury, Norwalk, Ridgefield and Stamford.
– Jessica Mangiaracina, PA-C