About one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, making this disease the most common type of cancer in the nation. However, many types of skin cancer are highly curable -- especially when detected early. May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, so we’ll be diving into the importance of skin cancer prevention, screenings, and early detection.
Early detection of skin cancer means early treatment, and early treatment means higher survival rates. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma have a high cure rate when found early. These are the most common types of skin cancer. Even melanoma, the most deadly type of skin cancer, has a five-year survival rate of 99% when detected before it spreads to the lymph nodes.
Ensuring early detection can be as simple as booking routine skin cancer screenings and checking your skin at home. The earlier you notice an abnormal mole or skin spot, the sooner your dermatologist can provide a diagnosis. And for some people, a quick diagnosis could be life-saving.
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends booking skin cancer screenings with a dermatologist once per year. However, it’s important to talk to your dermatologist about how often they recommend screenings. Your doctor may want to see you more often if you have a medical or family history of skin cancer.
During these screenings, the dermatologist will check every part of your skin for early signs of skin cancer. They will look for skin abnormalities such as:
Keep in mind that the above spots are not always signs of skin cancer, nor are they the only signs. Your dermatologist will talk you through the exam, giving you opportunities to ask questions or point out any skin concerns. Be sure to be open with your doctor about any skin changes you’ve noticed.
If your dermatologist is concerned about a skin spot, they may take a biopsy. However, this does not mean you have skin cancer. Your dermatologist will contact you with the test results after the lab processes the skin sample.
While annual skin cancer screenings are a great way to boost early detection, it’s also important to check your skin in between appointments. To perform a self-exam, stand in front of a full-length mirror in a well-lit room. Check your entire body for any skin changes or unusual spots. You may need a family member or friend to help check areas like your scalp or back.
If you notice any skin areas that concern you, be sure to call your dermatologist. They will likely ask you to book an appointment for a professional skin cancer screening. While frequent skin checks might seem tedious, you’re playing an important role in your own health by staying diligent about early detection.
Want to learn more about skin cancer dermatology and early detection? Contact the professionals at Pacific Dermatology Specialists. Our team of dermatology and skin cancer specialists are available to answer your questions and perform routine screenings. We also offer advanced skin cancer treatments like Mohs surgery. Our offices are located in Torrance, CA and the surrounding area, so be sure to book a screening at a location near you.