Annual Skin Exam
In addition to doing routine skin self-exams, people should have a skin cancer check regularly by a doctor or a Physician Assistant/Nurse Practitioner. A doctor can do a skin cancer check during visits for regular checkups. Patients in Conroe and the Woodlands who think they have atypical moles should point them out to the doctor. It is also important to tell the doctor about any new, changing, or “ugly-looking” moles.
If your doctor has any concerns, then he or she will refer you to a dermatologist who can provide you with a more specific diagnosis.
Risk Factors for Melanoma
Skin cancer is a very real risk, especially cities in the South such as Conroe and the Woodlands. Although anyone can get skin cancer, there are a few risk factors that increase your chances. Patients with these risk factors should be proactive in their prevention, and treatment:
- Family with skin cancer. If anyone in your family has skin cancer or a large number (usually over 100) of atypical moles, you should get an annual skin cancer screening. These people have an especially high risk of developing melanoma. When two or more family members develop melanoma, it is important for all of the patients’ close relatives (parents, brothers, sisters, and children above the age of 12) to visit their dermatologist for a skin cancer check for atypical moles or any signs of melanoma.
- Exposure to the sun. If you are constantly exposed to UVA and UVB rays without the protection of sunscreen, your chances for melanoma are greatly increased. Patients in Conroe and the Woodlands who have had severe sunburns in their childhood have an even higher chance of developing skin cancer.
- Fair skin. Most patients who develop skin cancer are very fair-skinned with light hair, blue or green eyes, and freckles. The chance of sunburns is much higher for these patients, and any moles should be carefully observed by a dermatologist.
While these are not the only factors that influence the development of skin cancer, if you have one or more of these features then an annual skin cancer screening is highly recommended.
What Happens During an Annual Skin Exam
A doctor may want to watch a slightly abnormal mole closely to see whether it changes over time. Anyone who has a large number of abnormal moles should also be regularly examined, which can be as often as twice a year for patients with more risk factors.
During your skin cancer check, sometimes a doctor decides that a mole should be removed so that the tissue can be examined under a microscope. The removal of a mole, called a biopsy, only takes a few minutes and is very common and usually performed in the doctor’s office. During the procedure Dr. Perri will:
- Administer local anesthesia around the area of the mole.
- Remove the mole with a shave biopsy.
After your biopsy, the mole will be sent to a pathologist to examine the tissue under a microscope and see whether the melanocytes are normal, dysplastic, or cancerous.
Benefits of an Annual Skin Exam
Early detection is key to skin cancer treatment. The earlier cancer is diagnosed, the higher your chances are for recovering completely with the least amount of surgical intervention and follow-up treatment. An annual skin cancer screening will allow your dermatologist to monitor any suspicious moles or discolorations before they turn harmful.