Taking good care of your skin is a must, and that includes investing in regular preventive skin cancer screenings. But how early can your dermatologist detect a problem during a regular screening? Here's what you need to know.
Irregular moles aren't always an early sign of skin cancer, but many moles that are irregular in some way end up being cancerous. During a preventive skin cancer screening, your dermatologist will look at every mole they can find on your body for irregular characteristics. More specifically, they'll be looking for irregularities in the following categories:
Asymmetry - If a mole is asymmetrical or has an odd shape, it's a sign of irregular cell growth.
Border - A jagged or ill-defined border on a mole could be an early sign of melanoma growth.
Color - Normal moles will be one color all throughout. In addition, every mole will be of a similar color. If a mole stands out in its coloration or has irregular coloration within, it could be an early sign of skin cancer.
Diameter - In most cases, moles will be fairly small. Any mole that expands beyond the diameter of your other moles is cause for suspicion.
Evolution - Moles that change in size, shape, or elevation on the skin are most often early signs of skin cancer. New symptoms such as bleeding, itching, or crusting are also important indicators of a larger problem.
While irregular moles are the most frequently mentioned early signs of skin cancer, irregular growths can also be an indicator of skin problems. During a preventive skin cancer screening, whether it's a self-exam or an exam administered by your dermatologist, you should be able to spot any irregular growths on your skin. These growths can take on many different appearances, but most commonly they consistently increase in size and may feel like a small lump under your skin. They may appear pearly, transparent, or even multicolored. A growth like this could be one of many different types of skin cancer. It's best to leave determining which type of skin cancer it could be to your dermatologist.
If you've recently injured yourself and you have a scrape or an open wound, make sure you make that known before you see your dermatologist for a preventive skin cancer screening. It may seem odd, but open sores can often be an early sign of skin cancer. If you have a spot or a sore that causes you pain, itches, and continually bleeds and crusts over, it's time to see your dermatologist. In addition, if you have an open sore that doesn't heal after three weeks, it's time to invest in a skin cancer screening.
This is a tough question to answer. In short, preventive skin cancer screenings can, for the most part, detect skin cancer as soon as it creates an irregularity on your skin. That means skin cancer can be detected early enough that you can invest in effective treatment. This fact is what makes preventive screenings so crucial.
If you believe you've detected an early sign of skin cancer or another problem on your skin and you want to schedule a skin cancer screening, contact our team at North Pacific Dermatology to set up an appointment today.