What is skin cancer screening?
Routine skin cancer screenings are a vital aspect of long-term health and wellness. This dermatologic exam observes the skin for signs of the various types of skin cancer. At our Henderson office, dermatology providers will examine your skin for any potential signs of skin cancer and discuss all potential steps necessary to continue the assessment of your skin health.
Benefits of skin cancer screenings
Skin cancer screenings are much more than basic exams that look at the skin on a particular part of the body. Our examinations observe the entire body, from toes to scalp. The thoroughness of the average skin cancer screening can save a life because it increases the chances of finding abnormal growths before they can become extensively invasive.
Whether a professional exam or a self-exam, skin cancer screening is useful in the earliest detection of skin cancers, including those that can cause tissue deformation and those that can cause death. A study published in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute has revealed that routine skin cancer self-exams could decrease the advancement of disease in melanoma patients. As a result, the study suggests that mortality could be reduced by up to 63 percent among these patients. Furthermore, a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association has melanoma lesions discovered by physicians are usually thinner than those found by patients.
What happens during a skin cancer full-body exam?
Skin cancer examinations are performed in our Las Vegas area office by our dermatology providers. When patients arrive for their screening, they will complete relevant paperwork for their patient records and be provided with a gown to wear once they are comfortably seated in the treatment room.
Patients will be asked to remove all clothing and put on a gown. Exams may or may not involve the genital area, where skin cancer can develop. Patients may speak with our dermatologist providers about their preferences. Patients are asked to come to their appointment without any make-up on for a complete exam of the face.
Most of the skin is observed with the naked eye. During the exam, dermatology providers at Signature Plastic Surgery and Dermatology may take notes of any spots that need further examination. Some lesions may also be examined using a specialized handheld microscope for the skin.
After the exam is complete, the dermatologist will discuss the findings and the next steps. If necessary, further examination with biopsy or another testing may be ordered to obtain more information on a suspicious growth. If no abnormalities are found, patients will be encouraged to perform monthly self-exams and to return in a year for a follow-up exam.
What the Doctor Is Looking For
During a skin cancer screening, the dermatologist will be looking for signs of skin cancers and pre-cancers. Your initial professional exam provides a baseline of information, such as the general appearance that is normal for your skin. From this point, you and the dermatologist can recognize changes that may indicate irregular cell growth in a mole.
Signs of Melanoma
Characteristics of a potentially-cancerous mole that could be melanoma include:
- Symmetry: the two sides of a growth should match if you were to draw a line through the center.
- Border: Normal moles typically have smooth, even borders. Melanomas may have notched or scalloped edges.
- Color: Shading should be monotone. Moles with more than one color should be checked by a dermatologist.
- Diameter: Moles larger than a pencil eraser should be examined by the dermatologist to determine if monitoring or testing is needed.
- Evolving: A growth that changes color, shape, size, texture, or other characteristics should be examined by a dermatologist.
How often should you get a skin cancer exam?
Currently, skin cancer screening is only recommended for individuals who are considered “at-risk” for this disease. Those risk factors are outlined below. Because skin cancer is one of the leading types of cancer for men and women in our country, the informal recommendation is that every adult undergoes professional screening on an annual basis.
What is skin cancer?
Skin cancer is a disease that develops in one of the various types of skin cells. The disease develops when skin cells begin to grow abnormally.
types of skin cancer
Squamous cell carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma is skin cancer that develops in the squamous cells. The second-most-common type of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma is more likely to affect the fat layer beneath the skin. However, because this cancer is slow-growing, it may be possible to prevent metastasis, or spread to the lymph nodes.
Basal cell carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma develops in the basal cell layer of skin. Approximately 80% of the skin cancers diagnosed last year were basal cell carcinoma. This type of skin cancer is usually slow-growing and, if treated, should not spread to the lymph nodes.
Melanoma develops in the melanocytes, cells in which pigment is produced. Though melanoma accounts for only 2% of annual skin cancer diagnoses, this translates into approximately 85,000 cases each year. Melanoma skin cancer is the most likely to spread to the lymph nodes and other organs.
What are the risk factors for skin cancer?
Skin cancer risks may be inherited, environmental, and personal.
Inherited risks include:
- Fair complexion, including very light or red hair and freckles
- Dozens of moles on the body
- A family history of melanoma
- Genetic sun sensitivity
Environmental risks include:
- One or more blistering sunburns
- Frequent suntanning
- Use of tanning beds
Personal risks include:
- Immunosuppressant treatment for other health conditions
- Radiation treatment
- Previous skin cancer
- Irregular moles
- Precancerous lesions (actinic keratosis)
skin cancer testing
If our dermatologist suspects skin cancer based on your visual skin cancer screening, a biopsy may be performed. Tissue biopsy involves taking a small sample of skin. This tissue is sent to a laboratory in which a pathologist will use microscopic magnification to identify the presence of cancer cells, if any. A biopsy can also determine the type of cancer cells that are present.
What are the skin cancer treatment options?
Squamous & Basal cell carcinoma Treatment Options
- Mohs surgery
- Electrodesiccation and curettage
- Topical medication
- Oral medication
Melanoma Treatment Options
Melanoma treatment is determined based on the stage of this cancer. When melanoma is localized, treatment includes removal of the cancerous tissue. An amount of surrounding tissue may also be removed to ensure all cancerous cells are obtained during the minor surgical procedure.
Additional treatments may be necessary if melanoma has metastasized. This may include lymph node removal, chemotherapy, or immunotherapy. Patients are advised of recommended skin cancer treatment based on the location, size, and nature of their cancer.
Schedule your Consultation
We are proud to provide professional skin cancer screenings in our office near Las Vegas by a medical doctor board-certified in Dermatology. To schedule your consultation, contact our Henderson office at 702.684.5502.