What is a Skin Cancer Screening?
The Skin Cancer Foundation reports that one in five Americans will have skin cancer in their lifetime. The high prevalence of skin cancer means regular skin exams are a must, especially if you have a personal or family history of skin cancer. Detecting skin cancer early is key to providing you with more treatment options and improved results. In addition to many innovative skin cancer procedures, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Mary Pentel offers comprehensive skin cancer exams and biopsies of abnormal areas. To schedule a skin cancer screening, contact Southside Dermatology & Laser Cosmetic Center in Jacksonville, FL.
Types of Skin Cancer
Dr. Pentel looks for four kinds of dermal cancers during a skin exam:
- Actinic Keratoses (AK): This sort tends to form after age 40 years on areas of the skin that have been exposed to sun — such as the head, neck, hands, and forearms. AKs look like dry, scaly spots and are commonly deemed precancerous because they have the capability to become squamous cell carcinoma.
- Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC): This is the most common type of skin cancer. BCC can form anywhere on the body and may look like a pink area or a pearl-sized, flesh-colored bulge. BCC must be treated quickly because it has the potential to grow into the bones and nerves, resulting in damage and disfigurement.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC): This type is the second most common kind of skin cancer. Forming on areas of skin that get the most sun exposure, SCC looks like scaly spots; red, firm bumps; or sores that frequently reopen. These need to be removed to prevent disfigurement and damage.
- Melanoma: This type of cancer grows abruptly as a dark spot on the skin. Dr. Pentel uses the ABCDs to detect melanoma — Asymmetry, Border, Color, and Diameter. Based on information from the Skin Cancer Foundation, melanoma accounts for just one percent of skin cancer, but it causes most skin cancer deaths. For this reason, melanoma should be treated quickly once it's diagnosed.
Women and men of all ages are at risk for skin cancer. While those with fairer complexions are at greater risk, all skin types and tones can get skin cancer. Dr. Pentel recommends that every patient perform routine self-exams at home so they know what's normal and can identify any changes in the appearance of their skin. You should schedule a skin exam whenever you're concerned that a spot on your skin has changed, itches, or bleeds. If you or a close relative have been diagnosed with skin cancer, then you may want to make appointments for yearly skin cancer screenings.
Checking Your Skin for Cancer
During your skin exam, Dr. Pentel will check your whole body for moles, birthmarks, and any abnormal areas. She can create a map of spots to indicate areas of concern and also to readily identify new growths at future screenings. Dr. Pentel will show you how to perform a self-exam in between your appointments, as early detection is crucial.
In some cases, Dr. Pentel might take a biopsy of a suspicious mole or spot. She will numb the area, then shave a little sample. She'll then send the sample to a pathology lab for analysis. After Dr. Pentel gets your pathology report, she'll contact you with the results.
In addition, Dr. Pentel can educate you on how to care for and protect your skin to help prevent skin cancer or precancerous cells from forming. Typically, Dr. Pentel will provide patients with a list of skin-care products and sunscreens that are effective against UV rays and other damaging environmental factors.
What to Expect
Following your exam, Dr. Pentel will talk to you about your skin and let you know if any treatment is necessary. She will also let you know when you need to come back for your next exam. Should you need a biopsy of a strange spot, there is a possibility of scarring, but Dr. Pentel will do her best to minimize scarring and take the smallest skin sample possible. Following the biopsy, Dr. Pentel will go over the best way to care for your skin so as to aid in proper healing. With good maintenance, any scarring should be flat and fade so that it's barely visible.
Early Detection is the Key
Understanding your risk and early detection are two important factors to the successful treatment of skin cancer. If you're due for an annual skin exam, then contact our team for an appointment. Whether you're already visiting Dr. Pentel for other treatments, are at elevated risk for developing skin cancer, or have concerns about an abnormal growth on your skin, come schedule a skin cancer exam at Southside Dermatology & Laser Cosmetic Center.