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How To Get Your Skin Checked For Cancer

‘low Risk Doesn’t Mean No Risk’

How to Get Tested for Skin Cancer

Basically, the overwhelming message is to get things checked if anything out of the ordinary or concerning crops up, on all parts of your body.

“Low-risk does not mean no risk,” says Heather Walker, the chair of Cancer Council’s National Skin Cancer Committee.

“Get to know your skin and what’s normal for you if you notice anything new, unusual or changing, go to the GP.”

“Particularly with people with ‘type four’ skin, it might be worth talking with your GP about what your risk would be,” Dr Shumack adds.

“People with white skin don’t tend to feel strange about going to their GP and asking to see a dermatologist for a skin check. Part of it is about empowering people with darker skin to look at their skin and then interact with their GP and dermatologist,” Dr Gunatheesan continues.

“We should all be vigilant.”

This is general information only. For personal advice, you should see a qualified medical practitioner.

Skin Cancer Prevention Strategies

Most people can reduce their risk of skin cancer by avoiding the suns ultraviolet rays. Simple prevention strategies include:

  • Wearing sunblock with at least 15 SPF, or sun protection factor, when outside
  • Wearing protective clothing such as a hat, sunglasses, and a lightweight long-sleeved shirt
  • Staying out of the sun when its strongest, which is between 10am and 4pm

What Is Involved In A Skin Cancer Check

When you come in for a skin cancer investigation, you will be required to undress to your undergarments for a complete examination. The procedure requires your doctor to methodically assess every section of your skin, stopping at every mole or freckle that they think might be even remotely suspicious. They will use a sophisticated magnifying device called a dermatoscope, which shines polarised light when and where required to aid in diagnosis. At our clinics, all suspicious moles or freckles are photographed under high magnification and immediately transferred to the doctors computer for further analysis.

Youll be able to get dressed once your entire body has been screened as part of the skin cancer scan. Soon after, your doctor will discuss and show you the magnified images on the screen if necessary and will advise on a further course of action.

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Is There Anything Else I Need To Know About A Skin Cancer Screening

Exposure to the ultraviolet rays that come from the sun plays a major role in causing skin cancer. You are exposed to these rays anytime you are out in the sun, not just when you are at the beach or pool. But you can limit your sun exposure and help reduce your risk of skin cancer if you take a few simple precautions when out in the sun. These include:

  • Using a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30
  • Seeking shade when possible
  • Wearing a hat and sunglasses

Sunbathing also increases your risk of skin cancer. You should avoid outdoor sunbathing and never use an indoor tanning salon. There is no safe amount of exposure to artificial tanning beds, sunlamps, or other artificial tanning devices.

If you have questions about reducing your risk of skin cancer, talk to your health care provider.

What Causes Skin Cancer

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More than 95% of skin cancers are directly related to exposure to UV radiation. UV radiation most often comes from the sun, but it can also come from artificial sources such as solariums.

When your unprotected skin is exposed to the sun or other UV radiation, the structure and behaviour of your skin cells can change. This can permanently damage the skin, and this damage adds up over time.

The good news is it is never too late to start protecting your skin! The best way to avoid skin cancer is by regularly protecting your skin from UV. Every day you protect your skin, you reduce your risk.

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Understanding The Skin Cancer Screening Recommendations

Recent studies may have failed to show the effectiveness of routine screenings for melanoma for everyone, but dermatologists do still recommend yearly screenings.

“Generally speaking, I recommend that everyone starts getting an annual body check in early adulthood,” says Marc Glashofer, M.D., a skin cancer surgeon at the Dermatology Group in West Orange, New Jersey. “If you can vote, you should get your skin checked annually by a board-certified dermatologist.”

In part, that’s because the U.S. Task Force doesn’t take into account non-melanoma skin cancers, including basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. The recommendations are instead based off of death rates from melanoma, explains Hooman Khorasani, M.D., the chief of the division of dermatologic and cosmetic surgery and an assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Basal and squamous cell aren’t as deadly as melanoma, but they’re far more common. Every year, more than 3.3 million people in the U.S. are treated for these cancers.

Only a fraction of these cancers spread to other parts of the body, but catching them early can be the difference between easy removal and serious surgery that can have a significant impact on your life , says Dr. Khorasani.

What Happens If Im Diagnosed With Skin Cancer

In most cases, when found early, skin cancer can be easily and successfully treated with surgery. Most skin cancers are cured once they are removed. If the surgical procedure does not successfully remove all the cancer or the cancer returns, other treatment options may be required. Other non-surgical treatments such as creams, radiotherapy, cryotherapy, or light therapy may be used but this will depend on the type of skin cancer found. Further information regarding treatment options can be found below.

Skin Cancer Treatment

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What Happens During A Skin Cancer Screening

Skin cancer screenings may be done by yourself, your primary care provider, or a dermatologist. A dermatologist is a doctor who specializes in disorders of the skin.

If you are screening yourself, you will need to do a head-to-toe exam of your skin. The exam should be done in a well-lit room in front of a full-length mirror. You’ll also need a hand mirror to check areas that are hard to see. The exam should include the following steps:

  • Stand in front of the mirror and look at your face, neck, and stomach.
  • Women should look under their breasts.
  • Raise your arms and look at your left and right sides.
  • Look at the front and back of your forearms.
  • Look at your hands, including between your fingers and under your fingernails.
  • Look at the front, back, and sides of your legs.
  • Sit down and examine your feet, checking the soles and the spaces between the toes. Also check the nail beds of each toe.
  • Check your back, buttocks, and genitals with the hand mirror.
  • Part your hair and examine your scalp. Use a comb along with a hand mirror to help you see better. It may also help to use a blow dryer to move your hair as you look.

If you are getting screened by a dermatologist or other health care provider, it may include the follow steps:

The exam should take 10-15 minutes.

What Is Skin Cancer

How To Check For Skin Cancer

Skin cancer mainly develops in skin cells that have been damaged by ultraviolet radiation from the sun. You can reduce your risk of skin cancer by using sun protection.

There are 3 main types of skin cancer, named after the skin cell where the cancer develops:

  • Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. It begins in the melanocyte cells of the skin and can spread to other organs in the body.
  • Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are called non-melanoma skin cancers. These skin cancers are more common but less likely to spread.

Skin cancers do not usually cause any symptoms. However, you may notice changes in the appearance of an area of your skin.

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What Happens If They Find Something

If your doctor finds a spot that could be cancerous orpre-cancerous, theyll likely want to take a picture for your medical chart andperform a skin biopsy.

During a biopsy, the doctor will remove a small amount of tissueto be examined under a microscope by a pathologist. This is a simple procedurethat can be done right then and there, in the office. Theyll clean the area ofskin where the spot is located, numb it with an injection of anesthesia, anduse a blade or scalpel to take a sample of the skin. You shouldnt feel anypain, aside from the pinch from the injection.

That sample will be sent to the lab for testing, and your doctor willshare the results with you when they are available. This usually happens withina few days but could take up to a week or longer.

If the spot turns out to be cancerous, it may need to becompletely removed or treated with other methods, Dr. Riley says.

What Happens During A Skin Check

Prior to your initial skin check please look at your skin, scalp and private areas and note anything of particular concern that you may wish to mention to your doctor. Please do not wear any makeup, artificial tanner or hand or toe nail polish to your appointment. This is so your doctor has a clear and unobstructed view of your skin.

During a skin check your doctor will ask you to undress down to your undergarments. You will be asked to lie or sit on the examination couch and the doctor will examine your skin using a Dermlite Lumio which magnifies and illuminates the skin. Any lesions needing further detailed examination will be checked with a dermatoscope, which allow the doctor to see the patterns within the spot with a remarkable amount of detail. Several studies have shown that doctors trained in the use of dermoscopy have a high degree of accuracy in detecting skin cancers. If you know there is a mole that the doctor has not seen you should let them know so they can examine this also.

Any lesion which appears to be suspicious will be noted. The doctor will discuss with you the need for a biopsy or excision . Some moles require only observation, which may involve the use of digital photography to monitor the mole.

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What Happens During A Skin Cancer Check

Your doctor will probably ask you some questions to assess your risk of skin cancer. You will usually need to undress for the skin examination. Your doctor may use a special device with a magnifying lens to look at any suspicious spots on your skin.

If your doctor suspects a skin cancer, they may remove it or perform a biopsy . Alternatively, they may refer you to a specialist.

What Happens If Skin Cancer Is Found

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In most cases, when found early, skin cancer can be easily and successfully treated with surgery. Most skin cancers are cured once they are removed. Other non surgical treatments such as creams, radiotherapy, cryotherapy or light therapy may be used but this will depend on the type of skin cancer found.

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Men Over 50 Have A Higher Risk Of Developing Melanoma

The AAD encourages everyone to take steps to prevent skin cancer and detect it early, when its most treatable. This is especially important for men over 50 as they have an increased risk of developing melanoma compared to the general population.

If you notice any suspicious spots on your skin or your partners skin, or anything that is changing, itching or bleeding, see a board-certified dermatologist.

So I Got My Skin Checked And This Happened

One of the many joys of aging, apart from the exponential growth of unwanted chin hairs, is that more lumps seem to grow on your body. Ive had a couple of lumps next to my nose and on my chin for a few years now, and none of them looked like anything much, no strange colours or the like, Ive been ignoring them.

See that tiny lump next to my nose? Well thats a basal cell carcinoma, those lumps on my jaw, benign moles and nothing to worry about

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How Good Are Doctors At Finding Skin Cancers

  • GPs and skin cancer clinics diagnose skin cancer with similar accuracy.
  • Both GPs and skin cancer clinics get it right about 50 per cent of the time, based on a measure of the number of skin lesions removed per one diagnosis of skin cancer.
  • For melanoma, both get it right around 5 per cent of the time.

    “This may sound pretty terrible but it is a reflection of how difficult diagnosing a melanoma can be,” Professor Emery says.

    Given the potential seriousness of melanoma, a relatively low threshold to cutting out a lesion when there is some degree of suspicion is very reasonable, he says.

Skin cancer clinics by comparison are set up so you can walk in without a referral and it is generally much easier to get an appointment.

They are convenient ‘one-stop-shops’ for skin checks and procedures including biopsies and skin cancer removal.

The main difference between your GP and a skin cancer clinic may be in the technology used, Professor Emery says.

Clinics often have imaging devices that allow them to store pictures of your skin lesions – both straight photographs and images from a tool called a dermatoscope, which is a magnifying lens used with a small amount of oil on the skin surface to show up features not visible to the naked eye.

Storing images is an important component of monitoring lesions if you’re not sure if they need to be removed or not. But many regular GPs also keep stored images too, just in a less systematic way, Professor Emery says.

Why Do I Need A Professional Skin Check

When and how often should we be checked for skin cancer?

Doctors use tools and techniques to examine skin thoroughly, beyond what the naked eye can see. And melanomas that are detected and treated early are cured in 90% of cases. So, in addition to self-checking regularly you should have a professional skin check once a year. It is also important to get a professional skin check by a doctor if anything having your annual skin check.

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What To Do If You Spot Something

Contact your GP as soon as possible if you see anything on your skin that:

  • has changed in size, shape or colour
  • has not healed within three weeks
  • itches or bleeds
  • you do not think was there before
  • looks different to other spots around it

Disclaimer Individuals who are concerned about skin cancer risk or skin changes should seek advice from a medical practitioner and discuss their risk and the need for medical checks or self-examination. Finding skin cancer early gives you the best chance of successful treatment. It is important that you know your skin well so you can notice any changes early. Cancer Council recommends that the general public, particularly those aged 40 and over, check all areas of their skin every 3 months, including skin not normally exposed to the sun.

Developed with assistance from Cancer Council South Australia. Images supplied by Cancer Council Victoria, Skin & Cancer Foundation Victoria, Dr Jamie Von Nida, Dr Peter Randell, Dr Judy Cole, Dr Eleni Yiasemide, Dr Clare Tait, Dr Chris Quirk and the Sydney Melanoma Diagnostic Centre.

Remote Skin Assessment Service

Noticing changes to a mole or skin lesion can be concerning and we understand that you’ll want to get it sorted as soon as possible.

Melanoma skin cancer is the 5th most common cancer in the UK, and we know that early diagnosis saves lives. This is why we’re offering fast detection of skin cancer from the comfort of your home, and usually without the need for a GP referral.

Watch the video to see how our remote skin assessment service works.

Not available to under 18s.

At Bupa, we understand that finding a mole or skin lesion that doesn’t look right can be worrying and you’ll want to get it checked as quickly as possible.

With over 16,000 new cases every year, melanoma skin cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the UK, and we know that early diagnosis saves lives.

That’s why we’ve developed our remote skin assessment service for fast detection of skin cancer from the comfort of your own home, without the need for a GP referral.

This service is available nationwide and you’ll get your results back within three working days from the time you register.

That’s on average three times faster than seeing a dermatologist in person.

Here’s how it works.

If you’re worried about a mole or skin lesion, you can call our cancer direct access team where you’ll be offered the remote skin assessment service.

After registering you’ll receive your kit in as little as one working day.

This clips onto the back of the smartphone in your kit.

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How Often Should You Get A Skin Check

Regularly monitoring your skin means you’re more likely to find skin cancers at the earliest stage when they can be successfully treated. Early detection of melanoma gives you a 99 per cent likelihood of being cured, while allowing a melanoma to grow unnoticed reduces your chances of survival to just 50 per cent.

As most skin cancers grow silently without symptoms, regular checks are vital for all people living in Australia. So how frequently should we visit our doctor for a “regular” skin cancer check?

It is recommended that all adults check their own skin every three months. It’s important to completely examine your skin from the top of your scalp to the soles of your feet. You will need the help of a partner or friend to check areas you can’t see, like the back of your ears. Learn how to perform a self-examination here.

In addition to self-checks, you should also see a skin cancer doctor for a full-body skin examination at least once a year.

If you are at high-risk of skin cancer, your doctor will request that you have more frequent checks. This might be every three or six months, depending on your risk factors. You are at high risk of developing skin cancer if you have a personal or family history of the disease, have fair skin or light-coloured hair, spend a lot of time outdoors, or have been frequently sunburnt or tanned. Take this quick quiz to find out your skin cancer risk.

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