An annual skin screening test is an examination carried out by a board-certified dermatologist to detect or diagnose skin cancer.
Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the United States. According to American Skin Cancer Foundation, one in every five Americans is expected to be diagnosed with the condition. Further, the rate in which the number of skin cancer cases has increased over the last 30 years is faster than other cancers combined.
There are two general types of skin cancer: non-melanoma and melanoma. Non-melanoma skin cancers are classified as basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma. Both can affect the epidermis, or the upper layer of the skin, although the basal cell is much deeper.
Melanoma is the deadliest type of cancer. It occurs due to a genetic mutation of the melanocytes, the skin cells that create melanin, which is the pigment that gives skin color. It normally begins as a mole, and the cancer can spread quickly as it goes deeper into the skin and reaches the bones, cartilages, lymph nodes, and nearby vital organs.
Although a person can perform a skin self-exam, a professional screening test can provide a more comprehensive and accurate result.
An annual skin cancer screening is recommended to:
The skin cancer screening can be helpful in:
During the test, the patient is directed to wear a medical gown and lie on a table with a bright light placed nearby. The doctor then begins to scrutinize every part of the skin, using a body map to determine the exact location of a mole, growth, birthmark, and other possible conditions of the skin. In some cases, the growths are small or they are obscured, for example, by the hair, so the dermatologist may have to use a magnifying lens.
The dermatologist will then take note of the asymmetry of the moles, pigmentation color, irregularity of the border, dimensions of the growth or lesion, and changes of skin growths. Depending on the result of the skin exam, the dermatologist may request for a biopsy for any suspicious lesion or growth.
The annual skin screening tests usually takes at least 20 minutes to complete.
Skin cancer screening tests are generally safe but there is a possibility that the skin cancer will remain undetected during the exam, especially if the growth is very small or the changes are extremely subtle.