Carefully scanning your body for skin abnormalities on a regular basis goes a long way toward catching potentially cancerous growths at an early stage. And as any of our dermatologists in the Naperville, Illinois area will tell you, an annual skin cancer screening is essential.
Preventive measures are great, but what happens if you do see something that seems unusual or abnormal? First, understand that there are different types of skin lesions, ranging from harmless skin tags to different types of cancerous growths. Even among skin cancer cases, the most serious form of skin cancer — melanoma — represents only about 5% of the cases. Basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers need to be treated, but are much less likely to metastasize. The most important point is that once you’ve noticed an abnormal spot, you should follow up with your dermatology provider.
Abnormal features include, but are not limited to:
- Asymmetry: If half of the spot doesn’t look like the other half, it is asymmetrical.
- Border: Spots or moles with edges or borders that are irregular, poorly defined, or scalloped should be checked by a dermatology provider.
- Color: Have a spot checked if its color varies from 1 area to another with shades of tan and brown, black, or other colors. Intensely dark spots can also be dangerous.
- Diameter: Although melanoma growths typically have a diameter larger than 6 millimeters (about the size of a pencil eraser) at the time they’re diagnosed, they can be smaller.
- Evolving: Moles or skin lesions that appear different than other spots on your body deserve a closer look. Similarly, if it changes in size, shape, or color over time, it should be checked.
- Bleeding, crusting, or scabbing: Skin lesions that bleed or don’t seem to heal should also be checked.
We also go into more detail about these on our Skin Cancer Care page.
By conducting regular full body scans and noting any unusual growths, you will have an easier time monitoring changes to moles or skin lesions.
If any of those characteristics describe a spot on your body or if something just stands out to you, the next step is to schedule a consultation with a dermatology provider. Early detection and treatment are critical for increasing the chances of recovering from melanoma as well as preventing functional, cosmetic, and life-altering complications from other skin cancers as well.
Even if you do not notice abnormalities, regular surveillance exams by a dermatology provider increase your chances for early detection and cure.