14 Nov Is A Dermatologist Part of Your Regimen?
At RefinedMD, we do a lot more than help you tackle under-eye circles and acne (although that’s a big part of the job!). Skin cancer, specifically melanoma, is the most common cancer in the United States. The past thirty years has seen more people diagnosed with skin cancer than every other cancer combined, and it’s the deadliest form of cancer. However, it’s also the most treatable form of cancer if it’s caught early.
This is where a dermatologist steps in. It’s absolutely critical to see a dermatologist to be checked for skin cancer at least once per year (and more if the doctor recommends it). However, there are also warning flags that you can look out for yourself. Remember that no self-check is good enough to replace a check-up with a doctor.
Beware These Tell-Tale Signs
Pinpointing a problem can be tricky. The most common skin cancer victims are those with fair skin and many freckles or moles, but anyone can have skin cancer. Keep an eye on moles that change color or size. Many moles naturally grow larger over time and that is not a guaranteed sign of skin cancer.
Moles that have more than one shade of brown, have irregular sides, or grow exponentially fast should be immediately checked by a dermatologist. A more unorthodox sign is sometimes a mole that “flakes.” “Satellite” moles are tinier red flags that gather around a cancerous mole. Sometimes they’re referred to as constellations.
Moles are More Complicated than ABCDE
For many years, dermatologists have warned patients about the ABCDEs of moles: Asymmetry, border irregularity, color that is not uniform, diameter of greater than six millimeters, and evolving size, color, or shape. We still encourage everyone to keep an eye on the alphabet of mole rules, but there are additional, lesser-known signs of atypical moles and skin cancer to keep an eye on.
Skin cancer happens when abnormal skin cells grow uncontrolled. Genetics is a component, but UV rays from the sun are the leading cause of skin cancer. Checking skin monthly for changes is a good idea in addition to annual or bi-annual skin checks (based on a dermatologist recommendation).
Moles that are flat and dark may be a red flag. Surprisingly, most dangerous moles are flat—not raised. Some types of skin cancer usually present as raised, such as basal cell carcinoma, and can often look nearly the same color as the rest of the skin. Location of moles also matter, with many melanomas forming on areas of the feet or between the fingers.
Sometimes skin cancer, especially squamous cell carcinoma, presents like eczema. It’s easy for a patient to be misdiagnosed. If “eczema” does not go away, it is important to get a second opinion. Skin cancer can also look like bug bites that never fade. Anything on the skin that lasts longer than a month should be examined.
If a mole or bump bleeds, it is worth getting checked. However, raised skin bumps can get easily scratched and cause harmless bleeding. Blood is not always a sign of skin cancer, but should be checked by a dermatologist. Additional potential red flags include bumps that look pearl-colored, strange and sudden scars, or oddly colored moles. In some cases, melanoma is pink or skin-colored, not black or brown.
Choosing a Good Dermatologist
Nobody knows your skin and your body better than you. A good dermatologist will biopsy any and all moles you’re worried about. They are professionals, but you still know your body best. The only way to know for sure if a mole is cancerous or pre-cancerous is with a biopsy.
You might have to see a few dermatologist before finding a good doctor who you’re comfortable with. Don’t accept that you don’t need a biopsy just because one doctor says so. It’s worth the time and effort to “shop around” until you find a dermatologist that works with you. Ask for referrals and check out available reviews online.
It should take the doctor at least five minutes to fully inspect, with a magnifying glass, every part of your body—often much longer, particularly if they’re using a tracking device. Good dermatologists will look in your scalp, between your toes, and in every niche of your body in case a cancerous mole is hiding. Nurses will take pictures of your moles to keep a record of any changes in the future. This is the time to point out any moles you’re particularly worried about.
A biopsy usually takes place during your first visit. It will take about a week for lab results to return. Most cancerous moles that are caught early can be removed with a simple, in-patient appointment. There is no chemotherapy, radiation, or follow-up treatment when skin cancer is caught in the early stages. Contact RefinedMD by calling the office or completing the online form to schedule your mole check.