A total body skin exam helps to identify spots of concern that could indicate symptoms of skin cancer. A pre-existing mole, birthmark, or other suspicious spots that change in shape, color, size, or texture is what a dermatologist pays particular attention to during a total body skin exam.
Skin Cancer is the most common cancer in the United States with 1 in 5 Americans developing it in their lifetime. If detected early, before spreading to lymph nodes or other organs, the average overall survival rate is 98%. It may be difficult for you to tell which moles, brown spots, or growths on your skin are harmless and which need to be examined by a dermatologist, making it imperative that you are proactive about having your skin exam annually.
A skin exam is quick and painless. A typical skin exam only takes 15 minutes. Your first visit will take a bit longer as your dermatologist will ask about your medical history and talk about your skin cancer risks. The ABCDE’s of melanoma offers a guide to warning signs or spots of concern and address when you should come to see a dermatologist.
Asymmetry – If the halves of the mole don’t match.
Border – If the borders around the mole is uneven.
Color – If the mole has a variety of colors or changes colors.
Diameter – If the mole grows in size or is larger than a pencil eraser.
Evolving – If the mole changes in size, shape, color or texture, as well as causes any new symptoms such as bleeding, itching or crusting.
During your total body skin exam, your provider will do a thorough exam of your skin, from the top of your head to the bottoms of your feet. The provider may use a dermatoscope (magnification tool) to look at the moles, brown spots, or lesions on your skin. Take note of any spots of concern that you may have prior to your appointment and share with your provider.
If a suspicious mole is detected during a total body skin exam, a biopsy may be taken and examined to check for any cancer cells. Should the sample show cancer cells, the appropriate treatment will be discussed with your dermatologist.
There are 3 main types of skin cancer that can be detected:
Basal Cell Carcinoma – The most common type of skin cancer. Typically, BCC is not life threatening, grows slowly and seldomly spreads to another part of the body. However, treatment is still important because it can be disfiguring and in rare cases spread.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma – SCC can develop from a pre-cancerous skin growth and can be found throughout the body. On the skin, squamous cell carcinoma is typically found in sun exposed areas and can spread to other parts of the body if not treated.
Melanoma – Known as the “most serious skin cancer” because there are not many good treatment options once it spreads. Surveillance and early detection are very important in the fight against melanoma. If not detected early, melanoma can spread from the skin to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph nodes.
Do you or someone you know have a spot of concern? Contact us today.
*Total body skin exams may not be covered by your insurance. Contact the office to verify your benefits*