Full Skin Examination

The earlier you find a skin cancer, the easier it is to treat successfully. Both skin self-examinations and professional skin exams are useful in early detection of skin cancers, including melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Studies show that skin self-exams could reduce the risk of advanced disease among melanoma patients and potentially decrease melanoma mortality by up to 63 percent. Physicians’ full skin exams are likewise effective; melanomas found by physicians have been found to be thinner (thus at an earlier stage, and more easily cured) than those found by patients.

It is important to clarify the type of skin cancer you are referring to when discussing skin exams’ ability to prevent death. The most common skin cancer, with over a million cases diagnosed annually, is basal cell carcinoma (BCC). Basal cell carcinomas rarely metastasize (spread) and are unlikely to be fatal. Melanoma is less common than either basal or squamous cell carcinoma (the second most common skin cancer), but (when advanced), much more likely to spread throughout the body and lead to death. Therefore, it is essential to detect melanoma early, because the deeper the tumor grows, the worse the prognosis.

Dr. Barnard has special training that includes the diagnosis and management of skin cancers. When you see one of our providers for your full skin exam, expect a 10-15-minute visit, including a review of your medical history and a head-to-toe skin examination. This is a good time identify any spots you are worried about; we can educate you about what to look for, such as any changes in the size, color, borders, or shape of a mole.

(visit www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/early-detection/step-by-step-self-examination for instruction on how to perform a self skin exam)  Virtually any notable change in a mole should be checked out. Typically, a spot that the doctor finds suspicious will be biopsied. During a biopsy, a sliver of tissue is removed for evaluation by a pathologist, who confirms (or refutes) the dermatologist’s suspicions.  All biopsied specimens must be such to the pathologist for diagnosis determination.

If you have a history of skin cancer or numerous moles, it is important to see Dr. Barnard for regular full skin examinations at intervals ranging from three months to annually.  We recommend all patients be evaluated annually for precautionary measures.  Contact us at 831-648-8005 to schedule your full skin examination; we look forward to hearing from you soon.