Can you remember the last time you got screened for skin cancer? A skin cancer screening is a simple but very important way to protect the health of your skin and potentially your life. With Prizant Dermatology of Pittsburgh, PA, you can receive a skin cancer screening to help you rule out any issues or catch developing issues early on. If you’re new to this process, we would be happy to guide you through it.
How Long Does a Skin Cancer Screening Take?
Around 20 Minutes
A skin cancer screening can sometimes be finished in less than a half hour. If you haven’t gotten a screening before or you’re new to our office, it may take just a bit longer as we go through your medical history, answer any questions you have, and talk through your potential risk factors.
All things considered, these appointments tend to be quite fast. Since most patients only need to come in for a screening appointment once a year, that makes it even easier to get scheduled. Once it’s out of the way, you shouldn’t have to worry about it for another 12 months.
What To Expect
During your skin cancer screening, we may ask you if any moles have been concerning you lately or ask if there have been any recent changes to your skin. We will then look over your skin and check for irregularities. If you express concern over a specific area, we may spend some extra time double-checking this area to make sure everything looks benign.
If there is a growth we believe is atypical, it may require closer inspection or a biopsy. It’s important to rule out any issues as quickly as possible. Skin cancer is usually treated with surgical removal when it’s caught early enough, and we want to make sure we catch any problems quickly to make your treatment as effective as possible.
Annual screening is a good idea for most adult patients, but patients with higher risk factors or a family history of skin cancer may want to come in for screenings more frequently. We would be happy to give you a personalized recommendation based on your family history and risk levels.
Skin screenings are a form of preventative medicine, like routine physicals and mammograms. They can provide peace of mind as well as crucial information to help you take good care of your health.
Are There Any Signs I Should Look Out For?
Your Daily Checks
While seeking out a professional screening is the best way to rule out issues, it can still be helpful to keep an eye on your skin so you can let us know about any concerns or changes you’ve noticed. Skin cancer doesn’t always present the same way for everyone. It could look like a changing mole or could be a sore that keeps bleeding.
If you have any concerns, please reach out for a screening as soon as possible. In the meantime, some patients find it helpful to keep the “ABCDEs of melanoma” in mind as they check over their skin each day.
A benign or harmless mole is usually symmetrical. If you were to draw a line through your mole, both sides should be fairly similar. On the other hand, if you were to draw a line through your mole and there was a significant difference between the two sides, that could indicate a problem. An asymmetrical mole should be professionally examined to rule out skin cancer.
The border around a mole should be clear and smooth. If the border of your mole is blurry, jagged, or irregular, it might be time to have the mole looked at.
The color of freckles and moles can range quite a bit. One important thing to keep in mind is each mole should usually be just one color, no matter how light or dark it is. Moles with skin cancer will sometimes have multiple colors throughout the mole or could have a blue or purple tint.
Moles that are larger than six millimeters across should usually be checked out. One easy way to visualize six millimeters without whipping out a ruler is to consider the usual size of a pea. A mole that is as large or larger than a pea should generally be monitored.
Finally, any changes should be kept a close eye on. It’s a good idea to be familiar with your skin so you’re more likely to notice if a mole is changing. A change in size, color, shape, or comfort should be looked into.
FAQ About Skin Cancer
1. Can Anyone Get Skin Cancer?
The short answer to this question is a resounding yes. While it may be more common to see skin cancer in adults who are middle-aged or senior, young adults can and do develop skin cancer as well. It’s important that everyone pay close attention to any changes in their skin, regardless of their age.
The truth is, if you’re over 18, it’s a good idea to start getting regular skin screenings. Since screenings tend to be fast, they are usually easy to fit into even a packed schedule. Treating a problem early on also helps make the treatment faster and more effective. No matter your age, protecting your skin is also a very good idea to help protect you in the present and in the future.
2. How Serious Is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer is considered highly curable if it’s caught early before it has the chance to spread. When it spreads, treatment can become less effective and much more involved. This is why early detection and treatment are both so important.
3. What Are the Risks of Removing Lesions at Home?
Some patients find themselves tempted to use a skin tag or mole removal device to snip off their lesions, but trying to avoid the doctor in this way can have some serious risks. First off, if you have concerns about a mole and you remove it without testing, you may not know if the mole is malignant. If it was, it would be unlikely that you removed all of the malignant cells, which could put you at risk.
Secondly, removing a mole by yourself is often unsanitary and could lead to infection. Even if you try to clean the area, not having professional experience could mean having to go to the doctor anyway to treat your infection.
When someone tries to remove their own dermal lesion, it’s much more likely for the area to scar more severely than a professional removal would. This is due to an improper removal method and can be exaggerated even further if an infection develops.
Scars can cause skin discoloration and skin texture changes. Without proper removal and care of the removal site, you could end up with a scar that looks worse than the mole you were trying to remove.
If you remove a lesion that could have been malignant, you may mistakenly assume that you’ve done yourself a favor. Unfortunately, by skipping the crucial steps of a biopsy and the correct removal, you could be putting yourself at great risk. If the removal was incomplete, you might assume the melanoma has been taken care of. In reality, it could spread to your other organs if you weren’t able to get all the melanoma cells.
When you seek out professional care, a biopsy will offer crucial information that will allow us to know what kind of treatment to provide and how extensive the treatment needs to be. We have the experience and training to thoroughly treat the area and protect your health.
If a patient tries to use something like an at-home laser device to change the appearance of their mole without making sure it’s benign first, this can affect their skin screenings in the future. If the appearance of the mole is changed, you could risk it either looking benign when it’s not or looking worse than before, even if it was benign.
Even if you know that your mole is benign, removing it on your own may not give you the results you were hoping for. Our team would be happy to offer our experience and our professional tools to give you the best possible results, whether you need your skin checked for any issues, or simply have a mole or skin tag you don’t like the appearance of.
Ready To Schedule Your Screening?
Whether there’s a specific growth you’re concerned about, or it’s simply been awhile since your last screening, we’d be happy to help you in our welcoming and comfortable office. Reach out to us at Prizant Dermatology of Pittsburgh, PA, today and protect your health with a skin cancer screening.