While a potential skin cancer diagnosis can be scary, early detection and an appropriate treatment plan gives you and your dermatologist the best opportunity to completely removing your cancer cells and to ensure a successful recovery. In addition to annual skin checks, regular self-exams are also key to early detection of skin cancer. There are several tips to help you stay on top of any developing skin issues that will help with early detection and can possibly even prevent skin cancer.
By examining your body routinely, you are more aware of any changing spots, moles and growths and can promptly schedule a skin check with your dermatologist as soon as you have any skin concerns, which will ultimately help with early detection of skin cancer. It is important to know what you are looking for during these self-examinations and be able to realize what changes to your skin are potentially harmful, and which changes are normal. To complete a self-examination, it is important to get a mirror so that you can check even the places that you cannot see.
Look for any moles or birthmarks that suddenly look a little different, such as becoming thicker or bigger or changing in texture or color. If the mole or birthmark grows bigger than the size of a pencil eraser, it is time to check in with your dermatologist. You also want to keep an eye out for any new dark spots on your skin, any new growths on your skin (especially discolored ones), and any sores that will not heal properly. If you notice any of these things, it is important to set up an appointment with your dermatologist.
Visit the Dermatologist
If you notice any questionable spots on your skin, it is time to make an appointment with your regular dermatologist. Also, it is important to remember that self-examinations do not replace your regular visits to the dermatologist. Doctors are usually able to notice things that even the most avid self-examiners may miss. Your dermatologist will conduct a head-to-toe exam and inform you if you will need any further examinations.
Safe Sun Practices
One of the most important factors in skin cancer prevention is to follow any recommended safe sun practices. This includes placing yourself under shade during the hottest parts of the day. Always wear sun-protective clothing, such as clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses with ultraviolet protection. And, of course, always apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Apply this sunscreen generously and remember to reapply it every two hours.
Here at Optima Dermatology, we are dedicated to detecting and eliminating skin cancer in the most effective ways available. Early detection is a key aspect to successful treatment. In addition to regular self-exams, we encourage all of our patients to be consistent with visiting your dermatologist annually for a thorough skin exam. If you have concerns about your skin and potential skin cancer, we recommend scheduling a full body skin check with your board-certified dermatology physician or provider.