Early Skin Cancer Detection Saves Lives; you need an annual full skin exam

Cynthia Bailey, MD|February 4, 2010

I found this spot on someone who came into my office for something else....  He saved his life by letting me do a full skin exam.

He didn’t really want a full skin exam or think it was necessary.  He made the appointment because of some spots on his face that were bothering him and his family.  He'd had a lot of sun exposure over the years and I think his primary physician may have also said that at he should see a dermatologist.  My rule of thumb is that I STRONGLY encourage every fair skinned person over 40 who has lived in the sun belt to have a full skin exam.  Many patients decline.  This gentleman didn’t and his decision saved his life. This melanoma was on his thigh.  In spite of having a large diameter, the melanoma was not invading into the deeper layers of his skin.  We removed it and he should be fine.  Statistically, it’s unlikely to come back..... Full skin exams save lives. Yesterday I removed another early melanoma that I found on the back of a different patient.  This woman came in especially for a full skin exam because she had a family member who had had a melanoma.  My patient had questions about some of her moles but couldn’t see the subtle little mole on her back that caught my attention.  It was small and light brown, but didn’t match her other moles.  She wisely agreed to have me remove it for testing, which showed an early melanoma.  Like the gentleman above, we caught it early and statistically she should be fine.  Because this mole was on her back, she would not have been able to notice it until it had grown quite large, and thus more invasive.  This patient saved her life by requesting a full skin exam. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that everyone have their doctor examine their skin every year.  People at higher risk for skin cancer should seek out a physician who's really good at skin cancer detection like a dermatologist or a primary care physician who is good at doing skin exams.  It doesn’t matter what your ethnicity is or how dark your skin is naturally.  Every skin type can get skin cancer. In addition, everyone should do self skin exams on a monthly basis.  The Skin Cancer Foundation has guidelines for self skin exams. People are often shy and decline full skin exams, even in the dermatologist’s office.  Don’t be.  Do your monthly skin exams.  Have an annual exam.  Ask your doctor about your level of risk for skin cancer.  Get a plan to catch skin cancer early. Need motivation? Read the Skin Cancer’s Statistics on skin cancer-their compelling!

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