Many skin conditions are easily identified by people who notice something “different” on their skin. Acne, psoriasis, hives, and rosacea, would be examples of conditions that a person might notice. However, moles, sun spots, and other blemishes that appear on the skin are sometimes dismissed or go completely unnoticed. These should be professionally assessed through a full body skin examination performed by a dermatologist.
So what is a full body skin examination? A full body skin exam identifies suspicious growths or spots that may indicate symptoms of skin cancer. This process is also sometimes called “skin cancer screening” and is essential for detecting and treating skin cancer early on.
A full body skin exam, or skin cancer screening, is a visual exam that checks the skin for certain unusual marks which may be signs of skin cancer. Birthmarks, moles, and other suspicious spots that have an unusual color, size, shape, or texture are what dermatologists usually pay most attention to during these screenings.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, and it occurs in four forms: actinic keratoses, basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Basal and squamous cell carcinoma are the most common skin cancers, while melanoma is the most deadly. With early detection through regular skin screenings and treatment, these cancers have a high cure rate.
Full body skin examinations are best conducted by a dermatologist, who is trained to identify these spots or growths. While some general practitioners conduct routine skin exams, a doctor may refer you to a dermatologist who can do a more detailed examination. Dermatologists are also more familiar with disorders that affect the skin, hair, nails, and mucous membranes – so they are best at diagnosing and treating skin cancer, acne, psoriasis, rosacea, eczema, and more.
When dermatologists conduct a complete check-up, they are mostly concerned with signs of skin cancer, which include:
For signs of melanoma, a dermatologist will look more specifically at the growth. They are trying to find the following “ABCDE” signs:
When these suspicious growths are identified in a screening, patients usually undergo a test, treatment, and finally a follow-up. The test is usually a biopsy, which is a procedure that removes a tiny sample of the skin. The sample will be examined under a microscope to check for cancer cells. A biopsy can accurately determine if the growth is cancerous as well as the type of cancer.
The appropriate treatment will be prescribed after the biopsy, once your dermatologist determines how aggressive the growth is. Finding and treating the disease early will greatly help in preventing the cancer from spreading.
If you have never had a comprehensive check-up by a dermatologist you can expect the exam to last up to 20 minutes. You may be asked to remove your nail polish, make-up, and anything else covering the skin and nails. You will also be requested to wear your hair loose for the exam.
Your doctor will ask you to remove your clothing and wear an exam gown for the head-to-toe exam. They will check your scalp, ears, toes, fingers, buttocks and genitals for any signs of skin cancer, and use a special magnifying glass with a light to see the marks clearly.
While everyone should get screened by their doctors, some patients are more at risk than others. Here are some characteristics of patients who should have a dermatologist conduct a regularly recurring skin cancer exam for them:
Walk-in Dermatology offers comprehensive skin cancer examinations. Let our board-certified dermatologists examine your skin for any marks that have an unusual size, color, or texture. Aside from skin checks, we also offer other medical and cosmetic dermatology services to help you look your best while living a healthy life. Book an appointment with us today.