What Should You Expect During Your Skin Cancer Check?

Posted on: 6 June 2022


If you have a family history of melanoma, burn easily, or have used tanning beds in the past, you may want to visit a dermatologist for a yearly skin cancer check. This exam is quick and painless, but it's a great preventative measure to catch cancer early. The earlier skin cancer is caught, the easier it is to treat generally. Read on to see what you should expect during your appointment and what you should do before and after your appointment.

What Should You Do before Your Appointment?

Although your dermatologist will check your skin during the appointment, it's a good idea to go over your body and make note of anything that seems unusual so that you can bring it up at your exam. For example, you should make note of any moles or freckles that are new or have changed over time. You should also make note of any lesions or any areas of skin that itch a lot or bleed. You may need to use a hand-held mirror to take a look behind your ears and other difficult-to-see areas. You may also need to use hair clips so that you can easily see the skin of your scalp.

What Will Happen During Your Appointment?

During your appointment, your dermatologist will have you change into a medical exam gown so that it's easier to assess your arms, back, legs, chest, etc. Just as you did previously, your dermatologist will look for any areas of skin that seem unusual. When looking at moles, dermatologists use the "ABCDE Method" to check for melanoma, which means that they look for:

  • Asymmetry
  • Border irregularities
  • Color changes
  • Diameter growth
  • Evolving

As you keep regular appointments, it will be easier for the dermatologist to look at any "evolving," or changing moles. Besides looking at any moles, your dermatologist will look for any evidence of actinic keratosis. Actinic keratosis is a rough, or scaly patch of skin that can resemble a wart. It mainly develops in people that have tanned a lot or have years of sun damage.

If your dermatologist does find something out of the ordinary, he or she can order a biopsy. During a biopsy, your doctor will use a local anesthetic and scrape off a small amount of tissue which is then sent to a lab for testing. You may feel some pressure or tugging, but the biopsy shouldn't hurt.

What Can You Do After Your Appointment?

If your biopsy comes back positive, then you and your dermatologist can discuss treatment options, such as cryotherapy, Mohs surgery, or excision. If your biopsy came back negative, it's still a good idea to still maintain a regular skin cancer check with your doctor. In the meantime, you should check your moles about every few months by doing your own at-home ABCDE check. Reach out to a dermatologist today for more information about skin cancer checks.