As our body’s largest organ that also acts as a protective barrier, our skin takes on a lot of wear and tear throughout the span of our lives. Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer because our skin is inevitably exposed to harmful UV rays repeatedly over the years. Here at Prizant Dermatology in Pittsburgh, PA, we encourage our patients to get a skin cancer screening with us sooner rather than later.
When Should I Consider a Skin Cancer Screening?
Many people don’t think about undergoing a screening unless they believe they are at risk of getting cancer or believe they may have it already. This is a common mistake, as successful treatment relies on preventative care and catching the signs of a malignant condition early enough. All adults over the age of 18 should be getting screened for skin cancer once a year at least. Those with higher chances of developing skin cancer should get screened even more frequently.
Although the best thing to do is schedule an appointment with us as soon as you can, there are red flags you can look for at home that could be signs of skin cancer. It’s always a good idea to closely monitor your skin every day not only to determine a baseline for good skin health but also to notice any worrying changes as soon as they appear.
The ABCDE Rule
This is a helpful way to remember the things you should be checking for as you monitor your skin each day. The letter A stands for asymmetrical and if this accurately describes a mole on your skin, it should be looked at by a professional. The B stands for border, because if the mole’s border looks jagged, oddly shaped, or anything other than smooth, it may be cause for concern.
C stands for color, and you should be keeping an eye out for moles or freckles that are multicolored. D refers to diameter, and any moles that appear larger than pea-sized should be closely monitored by an expert. The final letter stands for evolution, and this refers to the tendency for a malignant mole to change its size, shape, and/or color. If you remember to check for these characteristics you’ll be able to catch things before they become serious.
Specifics To Look For
Since the sun is one of the biggest reasons people develop skin cancer, it makes sense that the lesions associated with the condition will typically pop up in certain areas. Make sure you get familiar with your body so that you can recognize any irregularities as soon as they crop up. Be especially conscientious of your face, arms, the top of your head, and your neck. You should perform self-examinations at least once monthly.
When you’re checking these areas, you should be looking out for any new growths that resemble warts. Watch out for patches that appear rough, scaly, and red, and be wary of sores that bleed for weeks without healing. Anything that appears to have irregular, jagged edges and any bumps that appear to grow or change should be checked out by one of our experts as soon as possible.
Understanding the Risks
Of Delaying Treatment
The majority of individuals believe that skin cancer is something that only targets those aged 50 and above, but the truth is that adults as young as 18 can be at risk. Another common misconception is that those with darker skin tones can’t develop skin cancer and that harmful UV rays are nonexistent on cloudy days. The truth is that skin cancer can affect anyone regardless of skin color, and UV can still cause significant damage even with cloud cover.
Although it is one of the most common types of cancer, skin cancer also happens to be one of the most curable if the malignancy is caught early enough. Melanoma, a particularly serious skin cancer, has four stages that determine how much the cancer has spread. In stages one and two, the five-year survival percentage is an optimistic 98%. Waiting to receive treatment until stage four makes that number drop down to a mere 22%.
Of At-Home Treatment
It can be tempting to try removing moles at home, and there are quite a few do-it-yourself mole and skin tag removal devices being sold on the market. This is not advisable for several reasons, ranging from poor cosmetic results to serious consequences. The biggest reason not to remove any tags or moles that pop up before having an expert take a look at them is that you won’t know if the lesion was benign or cancerous.
Removing a skin lesion at home often means a lack of a sterile environment or proper equipment, and this can make for an unsanitary removal process that risks an infection. You may damage your skin during the lesion removal, and this will leave you with unnecessary scarring that could have been avoided with a professional’s help. Removing lesions yourself can also sabotage a diagnosis by rendering any screenings inaccurate, and this could mean you won’t receive the care you need.
The Skin Cancer Screening Process
A typical screening appointment for a new patient is around 30 minutes, and those who are returning patients are in and out of the office in 20 minutes. For your first visit, we’ll go over your personal and familial medical history to help us determine whether you’re at risk for developing certain skin cancers. We’ll talk with you about any concerns you have or recent skin changes you’ve noticed.
An expert member of our team will conduct a careful head-to-toe inspection of your skin to check for concerning irregularities. If we find any, we will perform a closer inspection and/or a biopsy to verify whether the abnormality is malignant or benign.
You Your Skin What It Deserves
Our skin is an excellent indication of our overall health and well-being. How your skin appears on the outside can reflect how you feel on the inside. That’s why it’s so important to diligently schedule regular skin cancer screening and treat your skin with the care and respect it deserves. Remember that fast action is the best way to approach the threat of cancer, so schedule your screening appointment with us here at Prizant Dermatology in Pittsburgh, PA right now.