Skin Cancer Screening
Skin cancer, known in the medical industry as Melanoma, is a type of cancer that initially begins in the skin pigment producing ‘Melanocytes’. In the United States alone, 1 in 5 people develop it. It is highly important that skin cancer is diagnosed, detected and subsequently treated in the early stages, and as such, if you suspect you might have developed it, you need to visit a dermatologist immediately.
Skin cancer most commonly develops on the outer layer of the skin; however, it is also possible that it can form on a mole that was already in existence. This particular form of cancer can spread to other organs, including that of the lymph nodes and thus can have serious consequences if left untreated
However, by undergoing a skin cancer test with a dermatologist and subsequently diagnosing it early, the cure rate is very high. In fact, if you live in a climate that consists of regular sun, it is important that you not only undergo an annual skin cancer test with a dermatologist, but that you also perform periodic self-skin examinations.
What signs of skin cancer should I be looking out for?
Whilst regular cancer screening tests is the best course of action, there are a number of symptoms that you should look out for. This can come in the form of a sore, lump or mole. Moreover, a skin growth that changes in colour or size could also be an early warning sign of skin cancer. In order to assist you with your self-screening methods, we would suggest you take some time to understand the ABCDE system.
If you develop an abnormal skin growth, examine whether one half of the area is different from the other. If it looks asymmetrical, get it checked.
You should also examine whether there are any irregularities with the edges of the skin growth.
If the skin growth changes from one colour to another, or the growth has a combination of more than a single colour, this should be checked further.
You should attempt to measure the diameter of the growth. In the vast majority of cases, a regular spot should not be bigger than 6mm.
If you notice that the mole is changing in appearance, this should also motivate you to undergo a skin cancer test.
Ultimately, the above ABCDE system should only be used as a guideline. It is important that you see a dermatologist should you have the slightest concerns of skin cancer developing.
It is highly important that skin cancer is diagnosed, detected and subsequently treated in the early stages
What happens during a skin cancer test?
Before you arrive at the practice for your skin cancer test, it is important that you perform a full self-assessment.
Make some notes of where you have noticed the abnormalities and bring them with you to the centre. The self-assessment should include your entire body, which should also include the area in-between your buttocks, behind your ears and under your arms.
Due the difficulties of viewing some parts of the body, it is advised that you use both a hand-held and full-length mirror to assist. Moreover, you should also take notes of how the growths or moles have developed. For example, any bleeding, itching and changes of time should be noted.
When you arrive at the centre for your skin cancer screening, the process should take no longer than 10 minutes. The dermatologist will want to perform a full body examination, to ensure that nothing goes amiss and thus, this will be performed on a one-to-one basis in strict privacy.
What else do I need to consider when undergoing a skin cancer test?
It is important to note that a skin cancer test is specifically designed to diagnose whether a patient has developed cancer. As such, the test is not intended to examine for other issues related to the skin.
If the dermatologist fids one of these moles suspicious through a visual check, a Biopsy would be recommended. This involves the surgical removal of the mole through a very minor procedure, lasting no longer than 30 minutes. The removed mole is then sent to the lab for analysis and a result is usually given after 7-10 days. Following the result, the client might be asked to return to the clinic to discuss the best way forward.
Are certain individuals more at risk of developing skin cancer than others?
Essentially, it is true that certain demographics are more likely to develop skin cancer. As such, these individuals are regarded as ‘high-risk’ and therefore, should ensure that regular skin cancer tests are performed. Firstly, those that have red or blonde hair, or light eye colours, are a higher risk. This also rings true for those that have skin that freckles easily. If you have a family history of melanoma, then this also makes you high risk. Other high-risk factors include those that have had an organ transplant, use tanning beds or have suffered from sunburn that blistered. Moreover, if you have more than 50 moles, have experienced unusual moles in the past, you are also at a higher risk of developing skin cancer. If you have been diagnosed with melanoma, then the dermatologist will likely need to see you every 6 months. After the first year, this will then reduce to once a year.
Ultimately, one of the biggest conduits for skin cancer is excessive and pro-longed exposure to the sun. You should ensure that you protect yourself at all times, especially during peak hours. More importantly, always use sufficient sunscreen to keep your skin protected.