Regular skin exams by both your dermatologist and yourself can help find changes early, when they’re easier to treat.
It is important to remember that most moles are benign (harmless). Some melanomas may not fit the usual criteria, but may still be malignant. If you see any kind of change on one of your spots, or if you notice a mole that is different from others – growing in size, changing colour, itching or bleeding – you should see a dermatologist. Warning signs may also be:
It’s important to check your own skin, preferably once a month. A skin self-exam is best done in a well-lit room in front of a full-length mirror. The best time to do this simple monthly exzam is after a bath or shower. Check any moles, blemishes or birthmarks from the top of your head to your toes. If you look at your skin regularly, you will know what’s normal for you.
Although many potential skin cancers can be examined with the naked eye, our dermatologist may also perform a more detailed examination using a technique called dermatoscopy. This technique uses a special microscope, with its own light source, which is held close to the skin for a more detailed examination. Another technique called mole mapping involves a series of digital photographs of the moles on your skin taken and archived. This is followed by having subsequent photographs taken at two or three month intervals, that are visually and digitally compared with the initial reference photographs to track and identify any moles that may have changed.
A digital mole mapping session takes about 30 minutes resulting in the preparation of a comprehensive report, which will be available the following day.
If our consultant dermatologists suspect that a change in your skin may be melanoma, a sample of the area is removed. This procedure is called a biopsy. It can usually be done in the clinic and the sample is then sent to a pathology lab to determine if it contains cancer cells.