The Importance of a Full Body Skin Evaluation
There are more than 5 million new cases of skin cancer diagnosed in the United States every year. Skin cancer accounts for more cancer diagnoses than all other types of cancer combined. Melanoma, the most deadly of skin cancers, has an excellent five-year survival rate when caught early. Skin cancer screenings done by a dermatologist can help catch cancer in its earliest stages when the cure rate is high, and treatment is often simple.
A full-body skin evaluation is a painless examination done by a professional who will work to make you comfortable. If modesty is an issue, be assured that your doctor will work with you to help you feel as comfortable as possible. Although your entire body does need to be examined, you will be covered with a drape or blanket.
You will be taken to a private room and left alone to remove your clothing. You will then be provided a gown or sheet for privacy. Only the skin being examined will be exposed during each step of the exam. Prior to the exam, let your provider know if there are areas where you have noticed symptoms such as changes in a mole, skin texture, or other symptoms.
If your doctor finds a suspicious lesion, a biopsy will be taken to undergo a microscopic examination. If a biopsy is needed, the skin will be numbed using a small injection of local anesthetic. You should not feel any pain during a skin biopsy. If the pathology report identifies cancerous or precancerous cells, your doctor will work with you to devise a treatment plan. Cancers caught early often only require the removal of the lesion for treatment.
If you find anything different or suspicious in the time between exams, contact your doctor right away.
To protect yourself from skin cancer:
In addition to full-body skin exams, there are definitive steps you can take to lower your risk of skin cancer.
- Use daily sunscreen, whether you plan to be in the sun or not. Apply sunscreen to all parts of your exposed skin with an SPF of at least 30. Reapply sunscreen after sweating or getting wet.
- Wear protective clothing. Clothing is the best protection from harmful UV rays.
- Wear a hat that shades your face, ears, and neck from the sun whenever you will be in the sun for an extended period of time.
- Wear quality sunshades. Sunshades that offer broad UV protection shields sensitive skin around your eyes and reduces your risk of cataracts.
- Be vigilant in sun protection for children. Children who receive sunburns before the age of 18 have a significant increase in the risk of skin cancer in adulthood. In addition to using sunscreen, limit the amount of time spent outdoors during the most dangerous time of the day—usually between 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Dress children in clothing designed to block UV rays.
- Avoid tanning beds. Tanning beds increase the risk of cancer and prematurely age skin.