How a Skin Cancer Screening is Done and What to Expect

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skin cancer screening

Not surprisingly, all three of the major forms of skin cancer – basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma – have higher treatment success rates if detected early. What is surprising to some people is how easy it is be screened for skin cancer. The evaluation is quick, painless and non-invasive.

Who Should be Screened for Skin Cancer?

People of all skin tones and races can get skin cancer. Consequently, everyone should perform a skin cancer self-exam at least monthly and have a skin cancer screening by a healthcare professional regularly. Your doctor will recommend the appropriate frequency. If you are fair-skinned, have light-colored eyes, spend a great deal of time in the sun or have a personal or family history of skin cancer, you will need to be screened more often.

The Simple Steps to Look for Skin Cancer

In preparation for a skin cancer screening, it is a good idea to do a self-exam and make a note of anything that concerns you so you can talk with your doctor about it. When doing the self-exam, keep in mind the ABCDEs as you observe any spots or moles:

A – Asymmetry
B – Border irregularities
C – Color inconsistencies
D – Diameter larger than 6 millimeters across (the size of a pencil eraser)
E – Evolving in shape, size or color

At your skin cancer screening, you will remove your clothes and put on a gown. The doctor will then look at every inch of the skin surface on our body, from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. While it is a thorough process, it does not take long to complete.

Skin Cancer Biopsies

If your doctor sees any suspicious moles or spots, you may need to have a test called a biopsy. In this procedure, you are given a shot at the site to numb it. Then the doctor scrapes off as much of the mole as possible and sends the material to a lab for evaluation. There, a pathologist looks at it under a microscope to see if there are cancer cells present. If there are, your doctor will develop a treatment plan.

While skin cancer is common, screening is easy and treatment can be successful, especially with early detection. If you notice a suspicious mole, don’t wait until your next scheduled cancer screening. Talk to your doctor right away.