At Derick Dermatology, we understand the importance of skin cancer screening. It’s a service that often gets overlooked until it’s too late. Undergoing skin cancer screenings is critical for the early detection of many forms of skin cancer. The sooner cancer is detected and diagnosed, the easier it is to treat it.
For context, around 99% of skin cancer patients will survive if it is detected within the first five years. This percentage decreases the longer your body lives with cancer undetected. Put simply, early detection can save your life.
We appreciate that skin cancer screening can seem daunting and scary. In fact, this is what puts many people off. With the help of our team of dermatologists, we’ve created this blog post to educate you on what happens during screenings, why they’re so important, and when you should book one.
What Happens During A Skin Cancer Screening?
A skin cancer screening is a simple dermatological procedure that involves inspecting your skin for any warning signs of skin cancer. If we spot any potential problems, we conduct a skin biopsy.
This sounds frightening, but it’s very straightforward. Effectively, a biopsy is when we remove a small skin sample for testing. It gets sent to the lab where we can diagnose if there’s something to worry about. Having a biopsy doesn’t automatically mean skin cancer is present – you could have a benign abnormality that’s perfectly fine. The whole purpose is to test your skin so we’re more confident of our diagnosis.
What Are The Main Signs Of Skin Cancer?
We mentioned that we check for warning signs of skin cancer. But, what does this include?
Generally, we look for any abnormalities or sudden/progressive changes in your skin – though this is a generalization. According to Cancer.Net, there are four main types of skin cancer:
- Basal cell carcinoma
- Squamous cell carcinoma
- Merkel cell cancer
Each type may have its own set of warning signs that we look for. Despite being the third most common form of skin cancer, melanoma is the one that often gets checked for first. This is simply because it has the highest death rate of the four, with cancer spreading to different parts of the body if it’s not detected early.
Signs Of Melanoma
Dermatologists have come up with a useful way to remember the warning signs of melanoma. It’s called the ABCDE method, and it looks like this:
- Asymmetrical – we look for moles or blemishes that have an irregular shape or aren’t symmetrical
- Border – we look at the border of moles or blemishes to see if they’re irregular
- Color – we check the color of blemishes to see if they’re uneven
- Diameter – we measure the diameter of a blemish to check if it’s larger than a pea
- Evolving – we see if the blemish has changed in the last few weeks or months
If any of these signs are present, we usually run a biopsy to see if the blemish is benign or requires treatment. The good news is that, when caught early, it’s usually easy to treat melanoma.
Signs Of Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer and usually appears in areas of your body exposed to the sun. The typical signs looked for during a skin cancer screening are:
- Bumps that are waxy
- Flat lesions on your skin that look brown or almost like scars
- A sore that bleeds or scabs over and doesn’t go away
Again, if one of our dermatologists spots these signs during the screening, we run a biopsy to get a diagnosis.
Signs Of Squamous Cell Carcinoma
The second most common form of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma is also mainly present in sun-exposed areas of the body. There are typically only two signs of this form of skin cancer:
- A firm red nodule
- A scaly lesion that’s flat to your skin and crusted over
Signs Of Merkel Cell Cancer
We typically check the head, neck, and trunk for signs of Merkel cell cancer as this is where it’s predominately found. While it can be a very dangerous form of cancer, it’s also incredibly rare.
Still, checks are necessary – and this is what we’re looking for:
- Firm nodules around the hair follicles or under the skin
There are other, rarer, forms of skin cancer but most of the symptoms cross over with the ones above. If we’re ever in doubt or see something that doesn’t look right, we take a biopsy to be certain that the correct diagnosis is made.
When Should You Book A Skin Cancer Screening?
Everyone should get into the habit of checking their skin for changes. Do this as often as possible, particularly when you expose yourself to the sun.
As far as when you should book a skin cancer screening goes, our dermatologists recommend once a year. This gives ample time before screenings to check if things have changed or monitor blemishes that were benign but could turn cancerous.
If you are at a higher risk of skin cancer, you should consider booking a skin cancer screening at least once every two years. The CDC outlines that the following factors can increase your risk of skin cancer and you should:
- A lighter skin tone
- Skin that regularly burns or develops freckles
- People with blue or green eyes
- Blond or red hair
- People with lots of moles on their bodies
- A family history of skin cancer
- A personal history of skin cancer
- Elderly individuals
At Derick Dermatology, we have many locations across Chicago and Tampa Bay where you can book regular skin cancer screenings. We recommend finding your nearest dermatologist and giving us a call if you haven’t had a skin cancer screening yet.
Moreover, you should book an appointment if you read through the warning signs of skin cancer and think you tick a few boxes. It’s better to be safe than sorry – if you don’t have cancer, you’ve spent money and time putting yourself at ease. If you do, at least you have caught it early and can begin treatment.
What Are The Benefits Of Regular Skin Cancer Screenings?
As mentioned before, the primary benefit is to get an early diagnosis of skin cancer. The survival rate and treatment success increase exponentially the earlier you spot all forms of skin cancer. Without regular screenings, you could be living with cancerous cells growing in your body without realizing it. By the time you start to think something is wrong, it could be a lot harder to treat the problem.
We said it once and we’ll say it again: early detection saves lives.
Additionally, skin cancer screenings are beneficial as they let our dermatologists monitor any skin blemishes, moles, or lesions on your body. You may have lots of blemishes that look like they could be signs of cancer but are benign. By getting regular screenings, we can keep checking them to see if they’re changing in size or shape. Sometimes, a benign blemish can become cancerous, which is why it’s important to always stay on top of things.
What Happens If Skin Cancer Is Detected During A Screening?
When skin cancer is detected during skin cancer screening, our dermatologists help you figure out a treatment plan. In the majority of cases – particularly when cancer is spotted early – we can book you in for skin cancer excision surgery.
This is a service offered by Derick Dermatology to remove skin cancer using Mohs surgery. This is one of the few types of surgeries able to treat skin cancer. It has a success rate of up to 99% and is focused on removing cancerous tissues and leaving as much of the healthy skin as possible.
The concept is very simple: remove the cancerous growth so there are no cancer cells in the area. It works incredibly well and can be all the treatment that’s necessary when skin cancer is spotted early. The reason for this is that you detect it before it has a chance to spread anywhere else. Thus, it’s much easier to treat a small area of your body rather than the entire body itself.
If you’d like to learn more about Mohs surgery and how it’s performed, click here.
Book Skin Cancer Screening Near Me Today
In summary, skin cancer screening is crucial if you want to detect skin cancer from the earliest possible point. The sooner you notice the symptoms and diagnose skin cancer, the sooner you can go ahead with treatment. As touched upon, a simple surgical procedure can be all that’s needed to completely remove a cancerous growth in your skin.
Aim to have at least one skin cancer screening per year, increasing this if you’re in the high-risk group. Derrick Dermatology can help you with everything as we have a team of talented staff able to identify, diagnose, and treat many dermatological issues.
Find your nearest Derick Dermatology location and give us a call to book your skin cancer screening today.
DERMATOLOGY NEAR ME
Derick Dermatology is a leading authority in medical, surgical, and cosmetic dermatological services with 23 stunning dermatology practices in Chicago, IL, and Tampa Bay, FL. Our dedicated dermatologists offer exceptional dermatological services for both adult and pediatric patients. Please complete our online form or call our main number at (866) 337-4251 to schedule a consultation.