Cancer screening involves the proactive search for signs of cancer without symptoms. A skin cancer screening specifically focuses on a comprehensive examination of the skin to identify potential indicators of skin cancer. Detecting signs of skin cancer can often be achieved through visual observation.
Given the prevalence of skin cancer, regular screenings are vital for early detection, when treatment is most effective. Both healthcare providers and individuals themselves can conduct skin cancer screenings. This involves inspecting the skin for abnormalities in moles, birthmarks, or other areas exhibiting unusual color, size, shape, or texture. If any area appears atypical, further tests may be necessary to determine whether it is cancerous.
The two most common types of skin cancer, basal cell and squamous cell cancers, typically have a low propensity to spread to other body parts, and they are generally curable with treatment. In contrast, though less common, melanoma is more severe due to its increased likelihood of spreading to nearby tissues and other body parts.
What is the Purpose of Skin Cancer Screening?
Skin cancer screening aims to detect potential signs of skin cancer and is not intended for diagnostic purposes. When signs are identified through a screening test, a subsequent skin biopsy may be recommended to confirm the presence of cancer.
Why is a Skin Cancer Screening Necessary?
Medical experts advise individuals to regularly check their skin, particularly starting at 18, as skin cancer is prevalent across all skin types. Regular self-examinations become crucial due to the widespread occurrence of skin cancer.
A skin cancer screening with a healthcare provider or dermatologist specializing in skin disorders is recommended if:
- Suspicious skin areas are identified during a self-exam.
- There is a history of skin cancer, warranting regular yearly screenings with a provider or dermatologist.
There is an elevated risk of developing skin cancer, indicated by factors such as:
For All Types of Skin Cancer:
- Regular exposure to natural sunlight or artificial sunlight, like tanning beds.
- Pale skin that is prone to burning easily and develops freckles.
- Skin that either tans minimally or does not tan at all.
- Blond or red hair.
- Light-colored eyes, including blue or green.
For Basal or Squamous Cell Cancer:
- History of actinic keratosis, characterized by thick, scaly skin patches.
- Exposure to radiation therapy.
- Weakened immune system.
- Exposure to arsenic.
- History of frequent blistering sunburns, particularly during childhood or adolescence.
- Personal and family health history of melanoma.
- A family medical background with atypical moles, such as Gorlin syndrome or xeroderma pigmentosum.
- Presence of several large or numerous small moles.
Consult with your healthcare provider about the recommended frequency for conducting self-examinations and whether there is a necessity for regular skin cancer screenings performed by a healthcare professional.
What Occurs During a Skin Cancer Screening?
In a self-examination to screen for skin cancer, you’ll scrutinize your skin for the following:
- Changes in an existing mole or spot’s size, shape, or color.
- Moles or other skin spots that ooze, bleed, or develop scaliness or crustiness.
- Painful moles upon touch.
- Sores that persist without healing for two weeks.
- Shiny pink, red, pearly white, or translucent bumps.
You’ll also adhere to the “ABCDEs” of melanoma, evaluating if the mole or spot exhibits:
- Asymmetry: Irregular shape with two parts looking distinct.
- Border: A ragged or irregular mole border.
- Color: Uneven coloration.
- Diameter: A size larger than a pea or a pencil eraser.
- Evolving: Changes in the mole or spot over the past few weeks or months.
For A Thorough Head-To-Toe Self-Exam:
- Choose a well-lit room with a full-length mirror and have a hand-held mirror at hand.
- Inspect your scalp by parting your hair and using a hand mirror. A blow dryer may help you move your hair for a better view. Check the back of your neck.
- Examine your face, ears, and the front of your neck.
- Assess the front of your chest and belly, lifting your breasts to inspect the skin underneath.
- Raise your arms to examine the skin on both sides, including your underarms.
- Inspect the front and back of your arms.
- Check your hands, including the spaces between fingers and fingernails (without nail polish).
- Utilize a handheld mirror for inspecting your back and buttocks.
- Sit down to inspect the front and sides of your legs, using the hand mirror to examine the backs of your legs and genitals.
- Examine your feet, including the bottoms, spaces between toes, and each toe’s nail (without nail polish).
For a skin cancer screening by a healthcare provider, you’ll disrobe and wear a gown. The provider will conduct a comprehensive examination covering your scalp, behind your ears, fingers, buttocks, and feet. Specialized tools, such as a magnifying glass with a light, may be used to scrutinize specific moles or spots more closely. This thorough examination typically takes approximately 10-15 minutes.
When to Seek Medical Help?
If you notice a concerning mole or spot, contact your provider. A potential sign of skin cancer may lead to a skin biopsy, which involves extracting a small skin sample for microscopic examination. While not all suspicious spots are cancerous, a positive biopsy prompts a discussion with your provider regarding available treatment options.
Also read: How Ultrasound Helps in Cancer Treatments?
Hi! I’m Akshay Sharma. I’m a blogger at Imagination Waffle. I love to read and write about Fitness, Health & Lifestyle topics. You can contact me at Twitter or Instagram.