Dr. Cynthia Bailey of Advanced Skin Care and Dermatology Physicians, has provided information on what to do before, during, and after a skin check. This helpful advice will guide you through your appointment and help you get the most out of your visit.
Woo hoo! You’ve made the decision to get your skin checked. What a great way to add to your sun-safe lifestyle. When we think of melanoma prevention, we often think of the usual: using sunscreen, covering up, not burning, avoiding tanning beds, etc. and forget an important part. Finding a suspicious mole or spot and having it checked out by a professional is considered one of the most important steps to preventing melanoma and it’s awesome that you are taking that step. Use these suggestions to frame your visit and you’ll be set to get the most out of your appointment.
Here is your pre-appointment homework:
- Choose a dermatologist. Refer to our how to pick a dermatologist post for helpful information on how to choose the best dermatologist for you.
- Take note of any areas on your skin or scalp that stand out to you.
Do your own self-exam and know what you are looking for by referencing the ABCDEs of skin cancer. Know your skin because early detection is key. Do not be shy, point out notable concerns to the doctor during your appointment.
- Remove all nail polish from your fingernails and toenails.
Believe it or not, melanomas can develop in areas that have little or no sun exposure, including underneath nailbeds.
- Remove all make-up or foundation.
Your clean face allows your dermatologist to have total visibility to the skin on your face, neck, and ears which are sun prone areas.
- Make a list of all medications you are currently taking or have taken in the past.
Share this list with your doctor to avoid any possible interactions and to provide a quick overview of your treatments for a more thorough examination. They also want to know your medications because some make you more sensitive to the sun.
- Be prepared to provide your UV exposure history.
Tell your doctor if you have ever used tanning beds, worked outdoors or if you have had ever experienced a sunburn. Did you spend a lot of time at the beach/pool when you were a child or do you still? Have you ever been diagnosed with any type of cancer or have you received radiation therapy for any medical condition? Make sure you are upfront and honest with your history to help the doctor make a more comprehensive assessment of you.
- Know your family history as it relates to skin cancer.
Have any of your family members been diagnosed with skin cancer? How were they related to you and what type of cancer did they have?
Here is your appointment day homework:
- Stay focused.
While time away from work and home is hard to come by and it is tempting to ask the dermatologist about a curious rash or the latest wrinkle cream while they are right in front of you, DO NOT DILUTE YOUR VISIT. Remember, you have 10 minutes with the doctor so dedicate this visit to your skin check.
- State your purpose for your appointment.
Remind your dermatologist you are there for your head-to-toe skin exam. Dermatologists are very busy with some practices seeing 100 patients per provider per day. Minimize your chit-chat and get right to the point. Be sure to state your medical history and point out suspicious moles or other marks. An exam that follows the TSBE method should only take about 10 minutes.
- Take control of your visit.
If your doctor starts talking about wrinkles, rashes or other skin concerns during your exam, bring them back on track. Thank them for their feedback and tell them you will return to see them regarding their suggestion, but that you are most interested in their full attention to a thorough skin and scalp exam during this visit.
- Pay attention and ask questions.
Don’t be afraid to ask your dermatologist to show you areas they are concerned about. Be sure to pay close attention to your identified suspicious areas and do self-exams at home. (Go ahead and photograph suspicious areas yourself a baseline reminder. This is a great way to inventory your moles to look for changes in color, size, and asymmetry. The AAD has body mole map you can download and use to track your moles from year to year.)
There are 3 common types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma and a whole host of other terms your dermatologist may use to describe “discoveries” on your skin. If you do not understand something your doctor says, ask them to repeat what they have said or have them explain it to you in a different way. Chances are you are not formally trained in medicine and this is not your area of expertise. It is perfectly normal for you to ask your doctor questions, you are worth it.
Congratulations you are ready for your skin check! Bring this with you on your visit so you remember what you need to do while you are there. We hope you find this a valuable resource for your next visit too.
I really appreciate your tip to know your family history of skin disease. My wife is thinking of going to see a dermatologist. I will be sure to tell her that she should look into her family history of skin disease!