Skin Cancer (cont.)
Most skin cancer is cured surgically in the dermatologist's office. Of skin cancers that do recur, most do so within three years. Therefore, follow up with your dermatologist (skin specialist) as recommended. Make an appointment immediately if you suspect a problem.
If you have a more deeply invasive or advanced malignant melanoma, your oncologist may want to see you every few months. These visits may include total body skin examinations, regional lymph node checks, and periodic chest X-rays. Over time, the intervals between follow-up appointments will increase. Eventually these checks may be done only once a year.
You can reduce your risk of getting skin cancer.
- Limit sun exposure. Attempt to avoid the sun's intense rays between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
- Apply sunscreen frequently. Use a sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 both before and during sun exposure. Select products that block both UVA and UVB light. The label will tell you.
- If you are likely to sunburn, wear long sleeves and a wide-brimmed hat.
- Avoid artificial tanning booths.
- Conduct periodic skin self-examinations.
Monthly self-examination improves your chances of finding a skin cancer early, when it has done a minimum of damage to your skin and can be treated easily. Regular self-exam helps you recognize any new or changing features.
- The best time to do a self-exam is right after a shower or bath.
- Do the self-exam in a well-lighted room; use a full-length mirror and a handheld mirror.
- Learn where your moles, birthmarks, and blemishes are, and what they look like.
- Each time you do a self-exam, check these areas for changes in size, texture, and color, and for ulceration. If you notice any changes, call your primary-care provider or dermatologist.
Check all areas of your body, including "hard-to-reach" areas. Ask a loved one to help you if there are areas you can't see.
- Look in the full-length mirror at your front and your back (use the handheld mirror to do this). Raise your arms and look at your left and right sides.
- Bend your elbows and look carefully at your palms, your forearms (front and back), and upper arms.
- Examine the backs and fronts of your legs. Look at your buttocks (including the area between the buttocks) and your genitals (use the handheld mirror to make sure you see all skin areas).
- Sit down and examine your feet carefully, including the soles and between the toes.
- Look at your scalp, face, and neck. You may use a comb or blow dryer to move your hair while examining your scalp.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/11/2014
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