Every year in the U.S., more than 5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, including almost 200,000 cases of melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer. That’s more than all other types of cancer combined. And every year, about 30,000 people die from skin cancer, including about 10,000 people with melanoma and about 19,000 people with basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma, the two most common types of skin cancer.
The thing about skin cancer is, if it’s caught early, it can almost always be treated. In fact, when melanoma is caught in its earliest stages, the five-year survival rate is 99 percent. But once the cancer starts to spread to the organs, the survival rate plummets to only 20 percent. The key to early diagnosis: regular annual full-body skin exams. When performed by an experienced dermatologist, these head-to-toe exams can be very effective in spotting the early changes associated with all three types of skin cancer. Yet many men and women skip their routine exams, either because they don’t think they’re important or because they’re not sure what to expect. If you’re overdue for a full-body skin exam, here’s what you need to know about how the exam is conducted at Dermatology of Boca and how it can help you avoid the deadly consequences of skin cancer.
There really shouldn’t be any surprise about what happens during a full-body skin evaluation. After all, the procedure is described by its name. A full-body skin valuation is just that: a careful evaluation of the skin over your entire body, from head to toe. Some people may feel embarrassed or self-conscious about having such a comprehensive examination of their skin. But considering a full-body skin exam could very well save your life, it’s important to set aside your modesty for the sake of your health and your life.
Your evaluation begins at your scalp. Dr. Fromowitz will part your hair to examine your scalp, from the crown to the nape. He’ll pay close attention to your ears and your neck before moving down to your torso. A complete exam includes an evaluation of your buttocks and your genital area, although some patients opt to leave their underwear on. That’s up to you, but because skin cancer can occur anywhere — yes, anywhere — it’s a wise idea to have every area examined. Once your torso is checked, Dr. Fromowitz will move on to your arms and legs, and he’ll even check your toenails and fingernails for early signs of skin cancer.
It may sound like a long process, but a full-body skin evaluation only takes about 15 to 20 minutes at most. That’s because Dr. Fromowitz is very skilled at identifying the signs of skin cancer, so he can perform a thorough assessment rapidly while still achieving optimal accuracy.
In the event the exam turns up an unusual spot on your skin, Dr. Fromowitz may take a very tiny sample of the skin in that area for further evaluation under a microscope. Before taking that sample, he’ll numb your skin using a local anesthetic or topical cream so you won’t feel any discomfort.
Yes. And if you have a history of skin cancer, you should have one twice a year. There are two main reasons why you need to have an exam at least every year. First, skin changes can occur rapidly, and having an annual exam ensures skin cancers are caught early — as early as possible so treatment can be as effective as possible. And second, when you have annual exams, you create a record of your skin’s health and appearance from one year to the next. That makes it a lot easier for Dr. Fromowitz to spot even the most subtle changes so you can feel confident you’ll receive the treatment you need as soon as you need it.
Having a full-body skin examination at Dermatology of Boca is a simple process that takes less than 20 minutes. Yet it’s one of the most important things you can do to prevent skin cancer and the devastating and even life-threatening effects it can have. If it’s been a year or more since your last full-body skin evaluation, take a moment right now to book an appointment online. It’s one small step you can take today that could have major implications for your health and your future.