What to Expect at a Skin Cancer Screening

Did you know that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States? Studies show 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in their lifetime, and that includes people of all races. Many people tend to avoid getting their skin checked for fear of the unknown, but it’s very important that you pay attention to your body. Everyone—including you—should perform monthly self-exams to look for any changes in your skin. If you have a personal or family history of skin cancer, self-exams aren’t enough—you must also make an appointment for a skin care exam with a dermatologist. Patients with a history of skin cancer, severe sun damage, or a strong family history of skin cancer should see a dermatologist every six months, while all other patients should schedule a skin care exam annually. If your appointment for a skin care exam is coming up, fear not! We’ll tell you exactly what to expect from the moment you walk into the examination room until you bid farewell to the doctor.

First and most importantly, skin cancer screenings are not something to be nervous about. They’re a quick and painless examination of your skin that doesn’t involve needles, blood work, or lab tests. Before the examination begins, your dermatologist will ask about both your family and personal skin history, including whether anyone has had skin cancer, how often you’re exposed to the sun, sunburn reactions, and if you’ve ever used indoor tanning facilities.

Skin cancer screenings are typically full-body examinations in which your dermatologist will examine all areas of your body, including places you wouldn’t expect like behind your ears and between your fingers and toes.

If your dermatologist notices anything suspicious, he or she may take a biopsy right then with your consent, or you may have to schedule a separate appointment to come back. A biopsy is simply a sample of your skin tissue, removed from the questionable site and sent to a pathologist for further examination to determine whether it’s cancerous. Results are usually available within one week and you’ll receive a call from your doctor to discuss the findings.

If you regularly do self-exams on your skin and are worried about any spots or moles, don’t be afraid to speak up! Your dermatologist is happy to explain what to look out for when it comes to changes in size, color, and shape.

Annual skin cancer screenings are small time investments that save lives every year. There are many types of skin cancers out there, with Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) and Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) being the most common and Melanoma being the deadliest. When any of these forms of skin cancer are detected early thanks to routine screenings, they’re highly treatable.

At Coastal Dermatology & Surgery Center, we offer annual skin cancer screenings that are handled by our board-certified dermatologist, Heather Loesch, and Megan McNamara, certified physicians assistant. Dr. Loesch and Megan encourage their patients to ask questions while always explaining what will happen in each appointment to ensure patient comfort and confidence. If it’s time for you to get a skin cancer screening, we’re happy to become your local dermatologist center in the Wilmington area. Give us a call or contact our office using our online form so we can get in touch and get your appointment scheduled!