According to the American Academy of Dermatology, one out of five Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in their life. That makes skin cancer the most common of all cancers, and something that is worth monitoring throughout your adult life.
There are several ways that you can keep an eye out for the signs and symptoms of skin cancer, starting with a skin cancer screening. A skin cancer screening is simply a visual evaluation of your skin, performed with the goal of identifying any unusual marks that could potentially be cancerous.
While you can perform a skin cancer screening on your own, it is wise to have a skincare specialist conduct a skin cancer screening from time to time. If you have never had a skin cancer screening before, it is only natural to have some questions about what you can expect.
What Does a Skin Cancer Screening Involve?
During your appointment, your dermatology provider will need to evaluate the skin all over your body for any worrisome signs or growths. In order for this to happen, you will likely be asked to undress in private, then put on a medical gown.
Once you are wearing your gown, one of our dermatology physician assistants will perform a visual inspection of your body, from your scalp to your toes, simply looking for anything unusual or concerning. Sometimes, the specialist may need to use a special magnifying glass to get a better look at a particular mark or growth, particularly when the mark or growth is too small to see with the naked eye.
Hopefully, your screening will end with your provider telling you that everything looks perfectly normal. In some situations, they may note an area of minor concern, recommending that you come back for a follow-up appointment at a later date. And if there are any areas of special concern, your skincare specialist may suggest that you have it biopsied. Our dermatology providers will let you know the next steps if a spot is found to be cancerous. Most likely, it will involve some additional removal of the area that was biopsied.
How Long Do Skin Cancer Screenings Take?
Most of the time, skin cancer screenings are very brief appointments. In fact, your skin cancer screening will probably take no more than 15 minutes. If your provider finds anything troubling and a consultation is required, then the appointment may take a little bit longer.
Will My Skin Cancer Screening Hurt?
If you have never had a skin assessment, it is natural to wonder whether it will cause any pain. The short answer is no: Skin cancer screenings are simply visual inspections and should not cause any physical discomfort.
If you have a mole or other type of growth that requires a biopsy, then you may experience some pressure or a slight tugging sensation. A numbing medication will be administered to ensure that you do not experience pain.
How Can I Prepare for My Skin Cancer Screening?
There are a few minor steps you can take to ensure that you are ready for your skin cancer screening. Our recommendations:
- Avoid wearing any makeup or nail polish on the day of your skin cancer screening.
- If you have long hair, wear it in a loose style that will make it easy for your specialist to check the scalp.
- Evaluate your skin before the appointment, looking for any moles or growths that concern you. Make sure to ask about these areas during your screening.
What Exactly is Dermatology Specialist Looking For?
Essentially, the skin cancer screening is an opportunity for one of our dermatology physician assistants to identify any growths that might be malignant. Worrisome moles are at the top of the list.
Moles are typically evaluated according to an ABCDE formula, which encompasses:
- Asymmetry. Do both sides of the mole look the same, or do they look different?
- Border irregularity. Does the edge of the mole look ragged or blurred?
- Color. What shade of black, brown, or tan is your mole?
- Diameter. Is the mole larger than a quarter of an inch?
- Evolution. Has the appearance of the mole changed over time?
Schedule a Skin Cancer Screening with Us
Skin cancer screenings can potentially save your life. If you are ready to schedule a skin cancer screening, we invite you to contact Megan MacCarthy, PA-C or Colleen Van Egeren, PA-C. Our providers have a combined 34 years of experience training and working with dermatologists. They both hold a master’s degree in physician assistant studies and are board-certified by the NCCPA.
Make your appointment with the Wisconsin Institute of Plastic Surgery by reaching out to us directly.