How do dermatologists test for skin cancer?


Skin cancer can be treatable when detected early. Cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancers, the most common forms of skin cancer, have been increasing for many years. Cancer.org states that 5.4 million basal and squamous cell skin cancers are diagnosed every year. However, dying from these cancers is VERY UNCOMMON, and the rates are steadily dropping. Why? Because methods of detection and testing are becoming more advanced, enabling treatment a lot sooner. Nowadays, an early skin care diagnosis can be the difference between life or death, as early-stage cancers are almost always treatable or removable.

So how do dermatologists test for skin cancer? The first line of defense is a thorough skin exam. Dermatologists recommend to have this done annually in a doctor’s office. During this examination, your dermatologist will look at every nook, curve, fold and cranny of your body from head to toe. This includes the scalp, palms, soles, and even the areas between your fingers. Using a combination of magnified lens and specialized lighting, your dermatologist will be able to see moles and birth marks in detail. He or she will look for any sudden changes in your moles. This includes: increase in size, change in color, or any change in the appearance of the borders.

Your dermatologist will also look for any skin lesions, any cuts or bruises that are not healing, or any bumps and lumps that might be deemed suspicious. During your skin exam, your dermatologist will also ask you if there is a history of skin caner in your family to determine if you have an increased risk of developing the disease. Another question that will be ask is how long you spend outdoors, and if you wear sunscreen or protect your skin when you are out in the sun.

There is also the question of medication, as some prescriptions can increase sensitivity to the sun, therefore increasing your risk of getting a sunburn. Remember that honesty with your doctor is the best thing you can do to help them diagnose you.

Any suspicious-looking moles may be put on a watchlist for the next time you go back to your dermatologist. This is to make sure that they are not changing, thus ruling out any potential diagnosis of a pre-cancerous or cancerous mole.

If your dermatologist does suspect a mole to be pre-cancerous or cancerous, they might prepare you for a biopsy. This is a simple procedure done under local anesthesia. The purpose of this procedure is to look into the small tissue of the mole to see if it contains any cancerous elements or not. If the diagnosis is a positive for cancer, your dermatologist might remove the growth completely, otherwise any removal may be optional depending on how the growth looks in the future.

If you would like to schedule a skin exam, please call us at (727) 528-0321.

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