Seeing a dermatologist regularly is essential in the fight against skin cancer. Skin exposed to the sun is especially susceptible to cancer growth. However, there are areas on your body that aren’t exposed to the sun, and yet skin cancer can appear there, too.
A dermatologist will examine your body for signs of sun damage and more significantly, for the appearance of skin cancer. He or she will be able to provide a definitive diagnosis concerning a questionable blemish that an untrained eye might otherwise dismiss as acne or a harmless mole.
Regular skin checkups are important since the skin undergoes changes over time that may otherwise go unnoticed.
For some people, the thought of visiting a dermatologist for the first time can be a little intimidating. The following information will allay your fears and help you prepare for your first visit.
What to Expect
Expect a full-body skin exam.
“We offer all new patients a total body skin exam, regardless of why they are seeing us,” says Dr. Renata Prado. “Because, countless times, a patient comes in with one concern only to find they have skin cancer.”
The doctor will examine your body from head to toe since skin cancer can appear on any part of the body, even parts that aren’t exposed to the sun. Please don’t let this keep you from coming in for an exam. A board-certified dermatologist is professional in his or her approach to your examination.
Wear clothing that is loose fitting and that can be easily removed for the examination. You will be provided a gown. Also, a dermatologist needs to examine your natural skin, so refrain from wearing makeup on the day of your visit. Foundation and tanning lotions will hinder the examination, prohibiting the doctor from getting a proper view of the skin and what’s taking place there. Even lipstick can behave as a camouflage. During the exam, the doctor will examine your lips, eyelids, and ears, too.
Come prepared to answer questions concerning your health history. In addition to questions that you’d normally expect to answer in a doctor’s office, your dermatologist will want to know specifics about your history with sunburns and changes in the skin.
“Do tell us about past treatments that have or haven’t worked for your skin condition. Sometimes it may take several visits or treatment options before we find the one that will best address what you have. At times, medicine is an art, not a science, so the answer may not always be clear on the first visit.” Dr. Michael Leslie said.
If you’ve noticed changes to a mole, freckle or skin blemish, the doctor will want to know about it. Make note of those areas and be prepared to talk about the changes.
“If you notice any changes in a mole, develop a new spot, or have an area that just won’t heal, then tell your dermatologist.” Says Dr. Vinh Chung. “While your dermatologist will see areas of concern, your doctor needs to know if any spots have changed or evolved over time.”
Patients shouldn’t be nervous or afraid to bring up any topic that is concerning. Also, it’s easy to forget what you planned to share with the doctor before you arrived in the office. So, feel free to take a notebook with you. Write down the questions and concerns you have prior to arriving at the doctor’s office. The pad can also be used to jot down important information that the doctor tells you during the visit.
Do Not Neglect a Skin Exam
If there is any hesitancy on the part of patients, it usually involves the first dermatological exam; after you know what to expect, and experience how easy the whole process is, it makes follow-up skin examinations that much easier.
One in 5 Americans gets skin cancer. Regularly seeing a dermatologist can indeed save your life; when detected early, skin cancer is entirely treatable. But early diagnosis is crucial.
“If there is a concerning spot, then we may need to do a biopsy, where we take a small skin sample,” Dr. Michael Leslie explains. “The sample is prepared and examined by a dermatopathologist who will evaluate the sample under a microscope and provide pathological confirmation of the diagnosis.”
Do not neglect to visit the dermatologist for fear of what he or she might find. You may not have skin cancer – and a regular skin exam can help keep it that way.
To make your first visit to a dermatologist, call Vanguard Skin Specialists at (719) 355-1585 to schedule an appointment. Or use our convenient appointment-request form. The highly qualified doctors and health care providers at Vanguard Skin Specialists look forward to helping assure your skin remains healthy for a lifetime.