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What A Skin Exam Involves

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:

  1. Perform a self-exam and come to your appointment prepared with notes about any new, changing or unusual spots you want to point out to your dermatologist. If you’ve taken smartphone photos of a spot that has changed over time, be sure to show them to your dermatologist.
  2. Remove nail polish from your fingers and toes to enable thorough examination of fingers, nails and nail beds, since skin cancers can form there.
  3. Wear your hair loose. Remove pony tails, buns or hair clips so that your doctor can get a good look at your scalp where skin cancers can, and do, develop.
  4. Remove your makeup. Please come to your appointment without makeup on or be willing to remove your makeup at our office.
  5. Ask questions. This is your opportunity to get valuable advice and insight from a professional trained specifically in diseases of the skin. From explanations of unfamiliar terms to pointers on how to do a skin self-exam, your doctor is an excellent source of information!

Schedule My Skin Exam

Skin Exam

What to expect

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.