Not everybody has the time each day for a complex, lengthy skincare regime. Even if your goals are to keep your skin happy and healthy, you may struggle to find the time in your day-to-day for something more comprehensive.
So how do you know if your skin will maintain its health?
There’s one really simple skin care habit most people skip that can really cost them in the long run. But when you do it, commit, and make it a priority, your skin can continue to thrive in its healthy state—and so can you.
That one skin care habit? It’s a simple skin exam. While it may be a simple skincare tactic that ensures your skin’s long term health and wellness, it also has the power to potentially save your life.
Here to walk us through the process of a skin exam and what you can expect (including how long it takes) is Mohs micrographic and reconstructive surgeon, Dr. James Quertermous.
How often should you get a skin exam?
For people who aren’t otherwise at risk for serious skin ailments, we typically recommend an annual skin examination. As for individuals with a family or personal history with skin cancer or other chronic skin conditions, more frequent skin examinations may be necessary.
What happens at a skin cancer exam?
Before your scheduled appointment, it’s good to do a once-over on yourself to the best of your ability to pinpoint anything that may be out of the ordinary. This may help your provider focus in specific areas, but not necessary for qualified professionals to detect problems.
The screening itself will happen in a room by yourself. First, you’ll get undressed and put on a medical exam gown. Then your doctor will ask if there are any areas of concern that you can point out.
If you don’t have any, they will begin their exam by viewing all of your skin, including your face, chest, back, arms, abdomen, legs, feet, and even places like between your toes, your scalp, and the bottoms of your feet.
When your doctor evaluates your skin, they’re typically looking for lesions with abnormalities. For example, when they are evaluating moles they may be looking for the ABCDE’s of melanoma:
- Border irregularity
- Colors varying shades of black, tan, or brown
- Diameter that’s larger than 1/4th inch
- Evolutions in any of the above over time
Your provider’s goal is to view all of your skin, since abnormalities can appear anywhere.
What happens if they find something abnormal?
Abnormalities happen, but not all of them are severe enough to cause a panic. That said, here’s what happens if your doctor finds an abnormality in your skin.
They may ask you a series of questions to help understand potential causes. Ultimately, a skin biopsy may be necessary.
A skin biopsy is a way to definitively diagnose an abnormal skin lesion. To perform the biopsy, your doctor numbs the area with local anesthesia and scrapes off a piece of affected tissue. That tissue is then sent to a lab where it will be looked at under a microscope to determine if any cells are cancerous.
What happens if it comes back positive for a cancerous lesion?
When a biopsy comes back as cancerous, and if the sample meets Mohs appropriate criteria, our patients are scheduled for Mohs surgery with Dr. Quertermous.
If the cancer does not meet Mohs appropriate use criteria, you may still need to be scheduled for removal of the lesion by a dermatologic surgeon.
How is skin cancer removed if found during a skin exam?
At The Derm, we use Mohs surgery to remove non-melanoma skin cancer in tissue-sparing areas such as the head, neck, hands, feet, and lower leg region. This specific process for removing non-melanoma skin cancer has a cure rate of up to 99%, making it one of the most effective ways to remove cancer cells.
Here’s the process of Mohs surgery and what makes it so effective:
First, the patient is numbed at the site of the cancerous cells. Then, Dr. Quertermous will remove the cancerous tissue that’s visible to the eye. The tissue is processed in the lab and examined under a microscope to determine if there are remaining cancer cells. This process is repeated until all the cancer is removed. When there are no more cancerous cells showing in the tissue samples taken, the Mohs process is complete. From there, we will close the wound in a manner that minimizes scarring.
We always hope our patients never get skin cancer in the first place, but have the ability to remove skin cancer should it arise. Early detection of skin cancer can save our life and regular skin exams by a professional is paramount. The best path to healthy skin starts with a simple skin exam. Make it a goal of yours this year to get one, and start today by scheduling an appointment.