If you’re an athlete who spends a lot of time outdoors, someone who has had lots of unprotected sun exposure or are just due for an annual check-up, then you’ll want to know how to prep for your visit.
Here, we’ll give you the basics about what to expect, and a few tips you can do to make the trip as easy as possible.
Do I Really Need a Skin Cancer Screening?The answer to this one is a resounding yes. Skin cancer is the number one most commonly diagnosed cancer in the US, and one in five Americans will develop it in their lifetime.
It affects people of both genders, all races, and across every ethnicity.
While some forms are easy to diagnose and remove, others, like melanoma can be deadly if left untreated. The only way to detect it is through a skin cancer screening, and if you catch it before it spreads, there’s a very high cure rate.
Early detection is key, so book that appointment!
What Should I Do to Get Ready?It’s best to show up with your hair down, all of your nail polish removed, and without makeup. Your doctor is going to look at every part of you including your nails and scalp during the exam.
When you arrive, they will have you undress completely and put on either a robe or gown like you see on patients in the hospital.
If you have any areas that are of concern to you, make a list and have it ready to share with your doctor. It’s your body, and you’ll notice if a mole has changed, you’ve developed a wound that isn’t healing, or something else has evolved recently that you want them to take a look at.
Will They Look Literally Everywhere?If the idea of stripping down completely naked in front of your doctor while they examine your skin gives you the jitters, you’re not alone. It’s the most uncomfortable part of the exam for many people, but your dermatologist will make it as quick and clinical as possible.
To answer the question, yes, they will check every inch of your skin from your scalp to the soles of your feet. Although it’s unlikely they will have you standing there totally naked, they will inspect your face, lips, ears, inside your mouth, chest, torso, buttocks, armpits, arms, nails, palms, hands, legs, and everything in between.
Most doctors will start at the top and work their way down, only uncovering the areas they are cataloging at the time.
Typically, they won’t examine the skin around your genitals unless you have a specific concern pertaining to that area. If you do, speak up.
Remember, your dermatologist went to school for what is basically a million years, and they will be both professional and clinical about any areas you want to address.
Do I Have to Admit to My Tanning Bed Habit Back When I Was 15?During your exam, the doctor will run through a series of routine questions to establish your history with sun exposure. If you’ve had lots of sunburns, used tanning beds, or had any moles or spots change recently are among the items they’ll address.
It’s always best to be honest because the answers to these questions will help them to determine your risk factors and know what times of abnormalities they for which they need to be on the lookout.
What is My Doctor Looking for During My Exam?When your dermatologist inspects your skin, they’re searching for a variety of irregularities including:
• Pearly, pink, or rough looking bumps
• Open sores that aren’t healing properly
• Small rough papule on your forearms, backs of your hands, or face
• Asymmetric moles
• Moles with unusual coloring
• Moles with jagged borders
• Moles larger than the size of a pencil eraser
• Dark streaks under your nails or inside your mouth
• Moles or markings that stand out from the normal color and texture of your skin
What Happens if My Doc Spots Something Unusual?If your dermatologist runs across an area that needs treatment, they will discuss your options with you during the appointment.
It’s possible that they will want to conduct a skin biopsy to determine the exact nature of the lesion and find out if any of the cells are cancerous.
Don’t worry; there’s no reason to freak out if this happens to you.
The procedure is quick, hurts less than your average flu shot, and can be done in five minutes at your doctor's office.
They will inject you with a numbing agent and then use a tiny blade to take a sample of the area of concern. It’s usually about the size of a little stud earring and will heal within a week.
Your physician may also recommend cryotherapy to treat the area. This means they’ll spray it with liquid nitrogen to freeze off the cells on the surface of your skin. It’s virtually painless and an effective way to remove pre-cancerous cells before they become a problem.
The appointment itself can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour depending on your skin. That said, it’s imperative you carve out the time to do it once per year to stay ahead of any potential issues.
If 60-minutes once per year could save your life, then isn’t it worth the effort?
Written by Nicole Kurz, Siren Luminary
Follow Nicole on Instagram! @nicolemkurz