We thought we would discuss the topic of when to see your Dermatologist because as we head into September and Spring and the weather warms up, people are more motivated to remove their clothing for the annual skin check-up!
We know some of you are unsure about when to consult a Dermatologist but the most important time is when you suspect you may have a mole that has changed or you detect a new mole or skin lesion. To keep on top of their skin cancer concerns many cases families book annual appointments for a skin check-up, as they would their dental appointments.
If you detect a new or changed mole in-between your annual appointment it is imperative to make another appointment to have it checked.
According to Dr Ian Webster, skin cancer is treatable but you do need to have a thorough annual skin check-up. This should be seen as an investment – early detection of skin cancer means it can be treated before it becomes a problem.
A clean bill of skin health will give you great peace of mind.
Many Dermatologists use technology called mole mapping to scan and photograph suspicious moles. This scan records certain elements not apparent to the eye and it helps in the diagnosis and treatment of the mole. The data is then stored in a database for the next time you visit your Dermatologist and he is able to check on the previous scan and do a comparative analysis to see if any changes have taken place.
Malignant Melanoma is the most dangerous skin cancer and approximately one in every fifty white South Africans will develop a malignant melanoma in their lifetime. Approximately fifty percent of malignant melanomas arise from a mole that the patient already has and the other fifty percent arise from normal skin. In other words, if an existing mole should change: itch, bleed or change in size, shape or colour you should consult your Dermatologist. If as an adult you develop a new mole that you have never had before and especially if it is darker with an irregular edge and colour, you should consult your Dermatologist for an assessment and scan.
“Approximately fifty percent of malignant melanomas arise from a mole that the patient already has and the other fifty percent arise from normal skin”
The second most dangerous skin cancer is a Squamous Cell Carcinoma – this may arise from an existing pre-cancerous spot called a solar keratosis. These tend to be in the sun exposed areas and they usually present with a wart-like growth that may grow rapidly in a couple of weeks. However, other types may grow more slowly.
Of these three skin cancers mentioned in this article, Basal Cell Carcinoma or a rodent ulcer is the least dangerous. These also tend to occur in the sun exposed areas and are generally slow growing. They will often present with slight bleeding and have a pink pearly appearance. If these cancers are left to untreated for too long they can have a local destructive effect, hence the name rodent ulcer.
Most South Africans have had too much sun over their life time so it is a good idea to go to your Dermatologist for a baseline examination and they can guide you as too how frequently you should book for a full body check-up if you have a tendency towards moles. If you live too far away from a city where most Dermatologists are situated, it is advisable to consult your local General Practitioner and he will be able to assess whether you need to see a Dermatologist for further investigation.
“Most South Africans have had too much sun over their life time so it is a good idea to go to your Dermatologist for a baseline examination and they can guide you as too how frequently you should go for a full body check-up”
- Get to know your skin – do regular skin checks after a shower or bath.
- Ask your partner, friend or your skin therapist to check in hard to see places – your back, between the toes, the soles of your feet, your ears and scalp.
- Always make an appointment immediately if you see new moles or moles that have changed in size, shape and character i.e. itching, bleeding.
- Remove your make-up and nail polish before your examination so your Dermatologist can do a thorough skin check. Melanomas can appear in strange places – even on the nail.
- Discuss any moles or lesions that are worrying you and indicate where they are before the examination.
- Make an annual appointment for yourself and your family especially if there is a family tendency to moles.
- Make your next appointment before you leave so that you don’t forget or delay an appointment.