What to expect at a dermatologist skin check

A full body screening for skin cancer is a common reason to visit–but many are surprised by the process.  Here is what to expect at a dermatologist skin check.

What does a dermatologist do during a skin check?

During a skin check the dermatologist visually inspects your skin from head-t0-toe to determine if there are any problem.  Most commonly this screening is done to detect lesions susipicous for skin cancer.  This may be done with the naked eye as well as a tool called a dermatoscope that allows the doctor to see more details. Let the doctor know if you have any specific lesions of concern or if you’ve noticed any changes.

Why do doctors make you take your clothes off for a skin check?

In order to perform a skin check the dermatologist needs to clearly see the skin to detect any abnormalities.  It works best if the patient gets undressed.  This allows the doctor to scan the area with greater ease.  The doctor will go through your hair to look at our scalp.  The doctor with look between your toes.  Although some dermatologist also inspect the genital and perianal area, most skin checks can be done with the underwear remaining on.  Some patients get embarrassed if they haven’t groomed themselves in a particular way, however, the doctor is not interested in whether you’ve shaved, waxed, or had a pedicure.  We want to make sure you are healthy.  In fact, we recommend that you skip the nail polish as a nail exam is part of your screening (you can get skin cancer in the nail area, too).

How long does a skin check take?

A skin cancer screening is a thorough examination but it can be fast if there are only a few lesions to inspect on a person’s body.  Skin cancer screenings can be done in under 10 minutes.  If a person has many moles, the visit may take longer.  Sometimes the doctor takes pictures for the patient’s medical records.  If the dermatologist finds a suspicious lesion she or he may want to perform a biopsy.  A biopsy is when a sample of skin is removed and sent to the laboratory to be looked at under the microscope to make a diagnosis.  This may be done the same day as the screening or scheduled for another visit.

How often should I get a skin cancer screening?

The recommended frequency of skin cancer screening depends on a person’s risk factors and prior history of skin cancer.  A person with few moles and no prior history should be fine with an annual check.  Someone with a history of abnormal moles, and a personal or family history of skin cancer may need to be screened as frequently as every 3 months.

Skin cancer in dark skin: do people with dark skin need a skin check?

Most of the types of skin cancers we see are associated with sun exposure.  It is commonly known that people with darker skin have a much lower risk of skin cancer.  Their risk, however, is not zero.  People with darker skin may be at the same risk of skin cancer, or ever higher risk, as people with paler skin with certain types and on certain parts of the body.  Melanoma occurs more commonly on the hands and feet of people with dark skin.  Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, a type of skin cancer than can look like eczema, more commonly affects people with darker skin and it occurs on covered areas such as the buttocks.

Read: Skin of Color

How much does a skin cancer screening cost?

Are skin cancer screenings covered by insurance?  They usually are.  A skin check is a routine type of visit with a dermatologist.  If one does not have insurance, ask how much a consultation for a skin cancer screening is.  For those without insurance, you can also look for a free skin cancer screening in your community.  These are most popular during the month of May which is melanoma awareness month.

Now you know what to expect at dermatologist skin check.  Looking for a skin cancer screening in nyc?  Call for an appointment at 212-627-1004 or send a message here.


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