What are skin checks?
Skin checks are essential for detecting skin cancers and precancerous changes by having your skin thoroughly examined. Moles and sunspots develop as we age and experience sun exposure damage. Although not every mole or sunspot may be cause for concern, it is important that you regularly check your skin to note any new or changing spots. If any look concerning to you, then having your skin checked by a specialist doctor may be required. There is no set guideline for how often you should get your skin checked, but becoming familiar with your skin and taking note of any developing or changing spots will determine if and when to book in for a skin check.
The cost of a comprehensive Skin Cancer Consultation with Dr Barney Gordon is $90 ($75 Pensioner).
Disclaimer: If you have a valid Medicare Card you will receive a rebate of $39.75 for a standard consultation.
How do I check my skin?
Most melanomas, the most severe form of skin cancer, are usually found by the person with the melanoma or their partner. Therefore, conducting your own skin check is a crucial first step in skin cancer detection.
Make sure you are in a room with good light and undress completely, using a full-length mirror to check your whole body. You can use a handheld mirror to check places that are difficult to see or ask someone you are comfortable with to help you. Ensure you check your entire body, not just the areas most exposed to the sun, including hard-to-see areas such as your back, scalp, and the back of your neck. Other less common places you should check include, between your fingers, under fingernails, between your toes, and on the soles of your feet.
What to look for
When conducting your skin check, look for dark spots, moles, sunspots, lumps, or scaly skin areas, and take note of their appearance, regularly monitoring them for any changes in colour, size, or shape. If the spot looks or feels different from other spots on your skin, or becomes a sore that does not heal, is itchy, or bleeds, it may need to be checked by a doctor.
When checking for melanomas, the ‘ABCDE’ guidelines can help identify their characteristics:
- Asymmetry – is there a difference in the halves of each mole?
- Border – are the edges jagged, uneven, or scalloped?
- Colours – are there different shades of colour, or is the colour uneven and blotchy?
- Diameter – has the spot or mole grown more extensive, or is it greater than 6mm across?
- Evolution – has the spot changed in size, shape, surface, or colour over time? Is it bleeding or itching?
Who should have a skin check?
If you or someone close to you has noticed a spot that looks concerning or has changed over time, you should book in for a skin check with a doctor who can examine it more closely. Some individuals may be at higher risk for skin cancer and should get a skin check, including people who have:
- Previously had skin cancer, including melanoma
- A family history of skin cancer
- Fair or freckled skin, especially those with skin that burns easily
- Red or fair hair with light-coloured eyes
- Lots of moles on their body
- Worked or currently work outdoors
- Frequent sun exposure to UV radiation
- Actively tanned or used solariums
- A weakened immune system
It is worth getting a skin check if you have any of these traits and have moles or spots, even if you have not identified any concerning marks.
Before your appointment at Shellharbour Skin
To prepare for your skin check, remove any makeup, nail polish, fake fan, or cosmetic product to ensure your skin is clean and does not conceal any spots your doctor could miss. If hair is covering your spot, you may want to shave around the area. We also recommend maintaining a daily moisturiser routine a couple of weeks before your appointment, as dry skin can make it harder for an examination of the lesion.
If patients have had any laser treatments in the last month or so, we recommend putting off the skin check for roughly four weeks, as laser treatments can change the colour of moles.
What to expect during a skin check
Your skin check can take 10-30 minutes, depending on your concerns. We will first assess your skin cancer risk by reviewing your general medical history, including any medication you may be taking and your family history. You will need to point out any areas of concern and discuss your skin type. Although all skin types experience UV radiation damage, some are at greater risk of skin cancer than others.
Your skin is examined using a small magnifying device called a dermatoscope. A full-body skin check will include the face, chest, arms, back, legs, scalp, behind your ears, between your toes, and the soles of your feet. Genitals and breasts are not included in a routine skin check, but if there are additional areas you want your doctor to check, let them know.
What happens if a skin lesion is found?
As with any procedure, medical or cosmetic, there is always a degree of associated risks or complications. Patients should be aware of these before choosing to proceed with any treatment. Risks and complications for PRP treatments may include:
If a malignant spot is found on your skin, photos may be taken and reviewed at a later time to check for any changes. However, in many cases, your doctor may perform a biopsy.
A biopsy involves removing a piece of the concerning spot and surrounding skin to send for pathology testing. The tissue is assessed under a microscope for any cancerous cells, and results are given to your doctor. A biopsy does not mean skin cancer is present, but it is essential when assessing troubling spots or moles. Different biopsy techniques can be used, and your doctor will choose the most appropriate type based on the type of lesion and its location. Biopsy techniques include:
- Shave biopsy
A shave biopsy aims to remove part of or the entire lesion using a shave-excision technique. It is the most common biopsy technique as it only leaves minor graze-like wounds that can heal quickly on most areas of the body, including the face.
- Punch biopsy
A 2mm – 4mm sample is taken using a core-like instrument, although more extensive punch biopsies can occasionally be required. They do not require stitches as the wound can heal quickly.
- Incisional Biopsy
This technique is a partial biopsy of the lesion using a scalpel to cut out a part of the lesion.
- Excisional Biopsy
This technique is a complete lesion excision, with stitches used to close the incision.
Suppose the report finds cancerous or precancerous tissue. In that case, further treatment options are available to treat your skin cancer and prevent its spread, depending on how far it has developed. Therefore, it is vital to get your skin checked as soon as you notice any suspicious-looking spots or moles or if you find yourself in the sun for multiple prolonged periods.