Skin Cancer Detection & Prevention: Skin cancer is currently the most common form of cancer in the United States, with roughly 8,500 Americans being diagnosed every day. Fortunately, the survival rate of skin cancer is very high if caught early.
Preparing for a Total Skin Body Exam
Dermatologists recommend that everyone check their skin regularly at home to look for any abnormalities that may be present. However, sometimes these abnormalities can go undetected, and a professional is needed to determine whether there are any red flags that suggest skin cancer.
A total body skin exam (TBSE) can be an uncomfortable experience, as a professional examines your entire body from head to toe. However, it is important to remember that these professionals are not here to judge, but rather detect any potentially cancerous spots.
A typical TBSE lasts just a few minutes. A patient is asked to undress and put on an open-back gown. If patients are uncomfortable having their genital area inspected, they may leave their underwear on. However, if you have a bump or abnormal growth in your groin region, it is recommended you have your dermatologist take a closer look.
After the examination is over, your dermatologist will discuss any concerns they have with suspicious marks. In the event that you have a benign or precancerous spot, your doctor may suggest they be treated with liquid nitrogen, a simple process that freezes the affected area to kill any abnormal cells.
In the event your dermatologist comes across a suspicious spot that may be cancerous, they will likely order a biopsy to be sent to the lab for further inspection. The process consists of your doctor photographing the lesion, applying a numbing anesthetic, and removing the lesion.
After your biopsy, it may take two weeks for your dermatologist to receive the results. Based on your preference and your dermatologist office’s common practice, you may receive the results of your biopsy in person or over the phone.
If your lesion is in fact cancerous, your doctor will schedule an appointment that is very similar to your biopsy. Roughly 20-30 minutes in length, the affected area will be removed altogether and stitches will be applied.
While skin cancer can be inherited through genetics, there are precautionary measures you can take to lower your risk. Here are three ways to prevent skin cancer:
Skin Cancer Detection & Prevention - Tip #1: Seek the Shade
The sun’s rays can be very harmful between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Even on cloudy days, our bodies are still exposed to damaging UV radiation. Plan most of your outdoor activities for other times of the day. If you cannot avoid being outside during midday hours, seek shade as often as possible and avoid sunburns at all costs.
Skin Cancer Detection & Prevention - Tip #2: Wear Sunscreen
While sunscreen does not provide protection from all harmful UV radiation, it can help lower the risk of skin cancer. It is recommended everyone use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Sunscreen should be reapplied generously every two hours to provide maximum protection. Be sure to cover all areas of exposed skin, including lips, ears, and neck.
Skin Cancer Detection & Prevention - Tip #3: Wear Protective Clothing
Protective clothing provides protection that sunscreen cannot offer. Wear broad-brimmed hats along with dark, tight clothing to cover your arms and legs. UV-protection sunglasses can also provide relief from the sun’s harmful rays.