One out of every five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer over the course of their lifetime. Early detection of most types of skin cancer improves the odds for successful treatment.
Monthly self-skin exams and yearly dermatologist-performed full-body skin exams are the best way to ensure early detection.
How to Prepare for a Skin Exam:
If you’ve never had atypical moles or skin cancer, the exam will likely be brief (about 10 minutes). You’ll need to remove your clothes and put on a medical exam gown. It is unlikely you will be told to remove your underwear, unless you have indicated that a spot on your genitalia concerns you.
Your dermatologist will thoroughly check your skin from head to toe, paying close attention to hard-to-see spots like your scalp, back and buttocks, behind your ears, and even between your toes. Your dermatologist may utilize a small handheld magnifying device called a dermatoscope, that visualizes the outer surface of the skin (the epidermis) and the layers just beneath it.
Your doctor may biopsy one or more suspicious spots. This usually means removing part or all of the lesion and sending it to a lab for analysis. If the report comes back that the spot is skin cancer, your physician will contact you and explain the type of skin cancer and treatment options.