Every adult should have at least a baseline skin check by age 30, but only a fraction of people do. For some, it may be that they simply don’t even realize they should. Others may be avoiding it out of a fear of the unknown. Regardless, we encourage everyone to make time for it: After all, the skin is our largest organ.
Here’s what typically happens during a dermatologist skin check here in our Joliet, Illinois-based practice.
First, there are no necessary preparations you need to make prior to a skin cancer screening. If you’ve recently noticed any new moles or spots or any changes in existing moles or spots, though, it’s always a good idea to mention them during your appointment so our team can take a look.
Once your name is called in the waiting room, a medical assistant brings you to a private exam room, takes your vitals, and gathers relevant medical information. We’ll ask you to disrobe in private before a provider comes in to perform the check.
After greeting you, we’ll visually inspect your skin from head to toe. We may use a small device called a dermatoscope (that’s sort of like a pocket microscope) to examine any lesions or questionable blemishes close-up. If we see anything suspicious, we’ll take a quick biopsy, which is relatively pain-free because a local anesthetic will be applied before excising any tissue. Biopsy sites typically heal on their own, too, which means there’s no need to be stitched up.
After your exam is over and you’ve dressed, we’ll review our findings with you. And for the vast majority of patients, this is quite simple: a clean bill of health.
The general guideline is to have your skin checked annually, perhaps more often if skin cancer runs in your family or if you have certain risk factors, such as a very fair complexion. We’ll give you an interval that reflects your risks and our findings.
And that’s really it! A skin cancer screening is just that: a screening. It’s not a procedure or a lab visit, and even if we do take a biopsy, it’s not painful (well, the numbing might sting a little). By keeping an eye on your skin with regular checks, you can go a long way toward heading off skin cancer well before it becomes a serious matter.