Like many areas in life, the devil’s in the detail, and skin cancer is no exception. At times, skin cancers can be relatively obvious to find while, more commonly, they can mimic ‘normal’ skin spots. As such, having an experienced doctor assess your skin regularly is the best and safest approach to finding problem skin lesions.
Summerland Skin Cancer Clinic generally recommends an annual full skin check to avoid missing any spots in obscure or hard to see places on the body. By checking the entire skin surface, many early skin cancers can be identified. A full skin check involves an assessment of a person’s skin from head to toe, including the scalp, mouth, eyes, nails and lymph nodes (‘glands’). You will be asked to remove all clothing except undergarments. We do not routinely examine breasts or genitals, and ask that you advise us if you have any spots of concern that you would like checked in these body regions. We also ask our patients not to wear makeup or nail polish when attending for a skin check as it can cover up skin lesions.
A full skin check usually takes around 15 minutes, and includes an explanation of the clinical findings and any necessary further management at the conclusion of the appointment. Doctors at Summerland Skin Cancer Clinic routinely use a dermatoscope in all skin checks. This is a handheld device which substantially improves diagnostic accuracy of skin lesions compared with ‘the doctor just looking at the spot’. All patients are encouraged to enter our appointment recall reminder system for future skin checks. How often an individual patient should have their skin checked is determined by their medical history, risk of growing future skin cancers and their personal preference. For some people this may be every 3 or 6 months. General advice for anyone without a past history of skin cancer would be a full skin check once a year from the age of 40. Skin checks, however, can be conducted at any age.
On occasion, patients may notice a new skin spot and have concerns only about this lesion. Whilst we do recommend a full skin check to avoid missing unseen skin cancers, we also offer brief appointments or ‘spot checks’ to examine the single lesion. Please advise our receptionist if you require one of these appointments.