Skin cancer screening

Prevention is the first step to reducing the affects of skin cancer on a person’s life. However, this does not guarantee that a person will never have this type of cancer, so the second step is to detect the skin cancer as soon as possible. In order to do this, skin cancer screening is important. The screening for skin cancer means looking for skin cancer before a person shows any symptoms. Screening is important as early detection of cancer can mean a higher rate of successful recovery. People may become anxious if their doctor suggests a screening test for them. However since these exams are given before a person shows symptoms, it does not mean the doctor thinks the person has skin cancer.

Skin exam

Picture of doctor performing a skin cancer screeningOne type of skin cancer screening is a skin exam. Individuals can check their own skin at least monthly and look for any irregularities. If they find any suspicious spots on the skin, they should report these to their doctor so he or she can examine the spot further. The importance of this for a person that has already had skin cancer cannot be underestimated. Melanomas cancer cells usually start their growth in the first layer of skin called the epidermis. Since this is the top layer of skin, growth can be seen with the human eye. If the person and the doctor are observant, this can result in the cancer being found early and the risk of the cancer spreading reduced.

Biopsy

During the skin exam, if an irregular spot is noticed on the skin, the doctor will probably do a biopsy. A biopsy involves removing as much of the area as possible. The sample from the biopsied area is then taken to a pathologist who looks at the tissue under a microscope to examine for cancer cells. As with any diagnosis, it is good to get a second opinion. Especially in the case of skin cancer as it can be difficult to determine if the sample is cancerous or not.

Screening risks

The person should also ask his or her doctor about any risks associated with the screening. One risk is receiving a false positive. The test could show that a person has skin cancer when in reality they do not. This could lead the person to feel uneasiness or dread when there is no reason for it. The person could receive a more serious test such as a biopsy which in this case would be unnecessary. Another risk is a false negative. The test could show that a person does not have skin cancer when in reality they do. The person may feel safe and not pursue further testing. Because of the surgical nature of a biopsy, scarring and infection are possible risk factors to consider. Even though there are risks involved with screening for skin cancer, it does not mean it should be avoided.

Even if a person has no symptoms of skin cancer, it is important that he or she is aware of examining their own skin. If any abnormal spots are found, they should give them attention right away. When people are examined by a qualified doctor, they can be assured of a proper diagnosis and receiving needed treatment immediately.