Freckle or Mole? How To Do A Self-Check

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Now that summer’s over and you’ve had your fair share of fun in the sun, here’s a wake up call: 1 in 5 Americans will be affected by skin cancer, and more than 3.5 million new cases in 2 million people are diagnosed annually. There are various types of skin cancers that can affect people of all skin colors and types, including actinic keratoses (AK), basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma, the deadliest one. Like monitoring for breast cancer, doing regular self-checks at home and having a professional screening in a doctor’s office can help catch all forms of skin cancer in it’s early stages, thus saving your skin and perhaps even your life.

THE STATS

According to a study carried out by Ipsos (a global independent market research company) commissioned by La Roche-Posay, only 18 percent of us visit a dermatologist regularly for a skin cancer screening, and about 38 percent check do self-checks. Another scary stat: Only 26 percent of those surveyed said they used sunscreen everyday, which is the most effective way to prevent the onset of skin cancer.

THE SELF-EXAM

A thorough skin self-exam (make time for one every month), is best done in a well-lit room in front of a full-length mirror. You can use a hand-held mirror to look at areas that are hard to see, such as the backs of your thighs, your back and scalp. Dr. Mona Gohara, a fellow of American Academy of Dermatology, member of the Skin Of Color Society, and a medical content reviewer for the Skin Cancer Foundation, advises  to look for the ABC’s of skin cancer:

A is for asymmetry. A normal mole is symmetrical, so an asymmetric mole could be a sign of melanoma.

B is for border. Moles with an uneven, jagged border should raise suspicion.

C is for color. A mole with more than one or uneven distribution of color is a sign of melanoma progressing.

D is for diameter. Moles larger than a pencil eraser should be viewed more suspiciously, however, melanomas can be quite even smaller when they initially develop.

E is for evolution. Look for a change in size, shape, or elevation of both new and changing moles.

Head immediately to a dermatologist if you have any doubts during a self-exam. But even if everything looks OK to you, in-office skin cancer screening tests are paramount because the doctor can see things you may not. Here’s what to expect.

 

WHAT HAPPENS DURING AN IN OFFICE SCREENING?

In preparation for your skin cancer screening, you should remove all of your makeup as well as any nail polish. There is nothing painful at all about a skin cancer screening, so there are absolutely no excuses. Your physician will check you from head-to-toe, and use a tool called a dermatoscope or the Melafind, when necessary, to better visualize your individual lesions.

IT’S QUICK, SO YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE

Skin cancer screenings usually take approximately 10 minutes, but the more moles you have, the longer the exam. It is recommended to undergo skin cancer screenings once a year, and if previously treated for skin cancer, every six months. A person who is an organ-transplant recipient has a higher risk for developing skin cancer and should be screened more often according to a doctor’s recommendation.

Hopefully the results are the you’re in the clear. But if any suspicious lesions are identified, your doctor will likely perform a skin biopsy, whereby the lesion is removed and then submitted to the laboratory to be examined by a dermatopathologist. You may also be encouraged to have more diagnostic tests to determine if you have cancer.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

The cost of a skin cancer screening typically corresponds with a doctor’s consultation fee, which ranges from $150-$450. Your health insurance may cover the cost, so check with the doctor’s office manager before you book.

#CHARLOTTE SAYS – NOBODY KNOWS YOU BETTER THAN YOU

This is one of the most important reasons to get to know your body well…you are the most qualified person to notice any abnormal changes to your skin. Know your body, know your skin, and perform self-exams as often as possible. And be sure not to overlook areas like the scalp, between the toes, and the soles of the feet. It’s important to remove nail polish from fingers and toes before your screening so the doctor can look at the skin under your nails.

And remember, you should only visit an actively board certified dermatologist for skin cancer screenings. Dermatologists should be certified by the American Board of Dermatology (ABD), which is a part of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), a non-profit organization that is considered the gold standard of physician certification. Consult the Charlotte’s Book Provider directory to find a doctor who meets these standards and specializes in this treatment. We check each practitioner’s directory before we allow them to list with us. You would be surprised how many unqualified experts there are practicing.  Some of them you might find on the pages of you favorite magazine. For more information about how we choose our providers, please read Credentials We Abide By.

Image via Gigi Hadid instagram. 
Originally published September 7, 2015

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