Skin Cancer Screening
Skin Cancer Screening in South Florida
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. In South Florida, where the sun is so prevalent, it is especially important to know that UV radiation is the leading cause of skin cancer. It is for that reason that skin cancer screening, a visual inspection of your skin by a board certified dermatologist, is so important. When skin cancer is detected and diagnosed early, it is normally curable. Regular skin cancer screening can be a lifesaving examination.
What Are The Types Of Skin Cancer?
There a few common types of skin cancer, most of them slow growing and very easy to cure.
The most common skin cancers are:
- Actinic Keratosis – A pre-cancerous lesion that left untreated indefinitely, can become cancerous. It starts off as a crusty red patch on sun exposed skin that is often sensitive. Because it is rough, it often gets scratched off, only to keep recurring.
- Basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma – These are also called “non-melanoma skin cancers” and rarely life threatening. They are slow growing and it is very rare for these to spread beyond skin. However, they will invade the skin and underlying structures if not treated early. Both usually start as a pink bump (can sometimes look like a pimple), rough patch, or sore that does not heal.
- Melanoma – The most dangerous and life-threatening cancerous lesion. It starts off as dark skin tissue like a mole or birthmark but spreads very quickly. It is often a new mole and asymmetric in color and shape. If caught early, it is easily curable with a surgery in the office. However, once in your bones or brain, treatment is very difficult and often unsuccessful. Melanomas can start anywhere on the skin but are most commonly found on the arms and lower legs of women, and on the head, neck, between shoulder blades and hips of men. Many people do not know that it can also be found in places that are not usually exposed to the sun, such as the soles of the feet or genitals.
How Do You Examine Yourself For Skin Cancer?
Being sensible and proactive could save your life. With early detection, diagnosis and treatment, most skin cancer has a 95% success rate of cure. You should be doing a self-examination at least once a month especially if you have a family history of skin cancer or if you have previously had any cancerous lesions. If you have any moles that suddenly appear in adulthood or are changing in shape, size or color, you need to make an appointment with your dermatologist for a skin cancer screening.
Examining yourself for skin cancer is easy, here are a few tips:
- Use a mirror to see areas more closely or ones you cannot see easily
- Make sure the lighting is good, preferably natural light
- Get someone to check the area of skin that you cannot see clearly e.g. your back and scalp
- Start from the top of your head and work down meticulously. Be sure to check the front, back and sides of fingers and toes and pay careful attention to the hidden areas like the scalp, groin, armpits and between fingers and toes
- Pay careful attention to areas of skin regularly exposed to the sun
- Use the ABCDE (asymmetry, border, color, diameter, evolving) formula to assess every lesion
- Keep a diary of what lesions look like and if there are any changes
- Examine your skin at least once a month
If you have a history of skin cancer you should do your monthly self-skin examination and see one of our dermatologists for a skin cancer screening at least every six months. Statistics show that skin cancer has a 20% chance of recurring in the first two years after diagnosis. Even if you are not due for your skin check, it is important to make an appointment with your board certified dermatologist if:
- A new mole appears in adulthood
- You have a sore that won’t heal
- You have a red scaly patch that keeps recurring and won’t heal
- The moles you currently have suddenly start changing appearance, bleed, ooze, itch, become scaly, tender or painful
What Can You Expect?
The examination will take place in a private setting. You will be asked to completely undress and put on an examination gown. You may be inclined to feel uncomfortable, but it is absolutely necessary that all areas of skin can be examined – our dermatologists will always be discreet and professional. At first we will do a visual inspection of the skin using a dermatoscope, which is a hand-held device that uses light and magnification to closely assess your skin. If we see a lesion that appears concerning, we may do the following:
- Ask a colleague for a second opinion
- Take a biopsy and send it for further testing to determine diagnosis and further treatment
How Is Skin Cancer Treated?
A skin cancer lesion detected and diagnosed early is easy to cure before it spreads. Localized basal or squamous cell carcinomas can be treated safely and effectively. There are a few treatment options that we will consider if we identify a potential threat:
- Surgical excision of the lesion with local anesthetic (inject lidocaine to numb the area)
- Removal with a curette (a scraping tool)
- Cautery, freezing with liquid nitrogen or treating with low dose radiation
- Applying an ointment with a chemotherapeutic agent or immune response modifier to superficial tumors
- Melanomas create the greatest challenge. Once diagnosed, early surgical intervention where the lesion is removed, with safe margins, and sometimes including removal of lymph nodes, is normally the first step. This may or may not be followed by chemotherapy and radiation and further treatment if it has spread to other organs.
Skin cancer affects 1 in 5 Americans, so anyone can get skin cancer. Examine your skin regularly. Avoid tanning beds and sun lamps, stay out of the sun between 10am and 2pm if possible, and always wear a sunscreen of 30+ protection and a wide brimmed hat when necessary. One bad blistering burn, even when you were young, doubles your chances of getting melanoma later in life. Contact us at Siperstein Dermatology Group if you are worried about any skin lesion or would like full body skin examination, and allow us to put your mind at ease.