For most cancers, detecting the disease early affords the greatest chance of survival. Skin cancer is no exception. In fact, it is one of the easiest to detect because even the earliest signs can be identified by the human eye.
The warning signs usually come in the form of skin lesions that itch, bleed, and do not heal or moles and growths that look dark in color, expand in size, appear asymmetrical, and/or have irregular borders. The diagnosis for these and related symptoms tends to be one of three types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, or melanoma. Of these, melanoma is the most dangerous. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, melanoma kills an estimated 10,130 people in the US annually.
Early detection of skin cancer does not necessarily require the trained eye of a physician. Armed with the knowledge of what to look for, you should examine your skin from head to toe on a regular basis. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that you conduct your self-examinations monthly, taking no more than 10 minutes.
What do you do if you find a spot or lesion on your body that looks suspicious? That’s when you’ll want to see your primary care doctor or better yet, a dermatologist. To get the most out of your visit, Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi provides the following pointers:
- Before the exam – Remove all nail polish and of course, perform a full-body skin self-exam. Be sure to examine overlooked areas, such as the scalp, between the toes, and the soles of the feet.
- During the exam – Point out moles, growths, or lesions you noted during your skin self-exams and ask questions. As a rule of thumb, the more moles you have on your body, the longer the examination will likely take.
To read more insights from of Dr. Tanzi, visit the Skin Cancer Foundation website: Make The Most of Your Visit to the Dermatologist.