I know you are busy. I know the holidays are here. I know that skin cancer may be the last thing you are thinking about right now. But I am going to tell you that making an appointment with a dermatologist to get your annual skin exam could save your life. I wouldn't be writing this if I didn't know it was true.
I will give an example from my own personal experience. For years I had been seeing a dermatologist to treat my adult acne. In addition to seeing a dermatologist for this purpose, I would also dutifully get my annual skin exam to check for any suspicious moles or lesions. My doctor did find pre-cancerous moles which she promptly removed. Yet during all these years my dear husband refused to go to the dermatologist for a skin exam. He thought it was unnecessary, despite my strong suggestions for him to do so.
It wasn't until my husband asked me about a funny looking mole when he decided that this might be a good idea to go. Despite the fact that he had annual physical exams, the regular doc missed seeing this atypical mole. But when he finally did go to the dermatologist, she understood right away that it needed to be removed as soon as possible.
It turned out that my husband had an early stage of melanoma, called melanoma in situ. Had he been persistent in his refusal to see a dermatologist, we could have had a much more serious situation on our hands. At this early stage, his skin cancer was easily treatable, and had not spread. But I would hate to think what may have happened if I had not gotten him to finally go see the doctor. Now he sees the dermatologist at regular intervals to have his skin checked for any new lesions.
So what is your excuse for not making an appointment for a yearly skin exam?
Your Excuses Debunked
- "I don't have the time for a skin exam."
In the time it takes you to complain that you have time for an annual skin exam, you could have scheduled one already. The exam itself takes very little time. In my personal experience I am in and out within 15-20 minutes and this is with waiting involved.
- "My regular doc will check my skin during my annual physical."
Maybe your general practitioner will check your skin but don't count on it. And even if your regular doctor does check your moles, there is a good chance he or she will miss something that a dermatologist would not. Some studies suggests that GP's "get it right" only 60% of the time, meaning that they sometimes have difficulty with identifying pre-cancerous or cancerous skin growths and moles.
- "I don't have a dermatologist."
You can easily find a dermatologist in your geographical area by plugging in your information into the Find a Dermatologist page courtesy of The American Academy of Dermatology.
- "I don't have the money or insurance to get an annual skin exam."
This is a very real problem for many people who are underinsured or who lack the funds to see a specialist. Fortunately there are free skin care screenings available at certain times of the year, usually in the Spring. To receive an email alert and to be notified when a screening is scheduled within a 50-mile radius of your location, please visit the American Academy of Dermatology website.
- "I can check my own skin for suspicious moles and lesions."
This is a wonderful preventive strategy to conduct your own self-skin exam. This article will tell you the details on how to perform such a self-skin check. In addition to checking your own skin, you still need to get that skin exam performed by a dermatologist. The reason is that studies show that dermatologists detect most skin cancers. According to a 2009 study published in The Archives of Dermatology over 56% of melanoma skin cancers are not found by patients but are detected by dermatologists who are doing a full body skin exam.
Okay so you have now run out of excuses. A good time to schedule your annual skin exam is around the New Year so that you don't forget when to re-schedule. As much as we would like to pretend that skin cancer will never affect us, this is not an accurate hypothesis. In the course of a lifetime, one in five of us will develop some form of skin cancer. And some of us will needlessly die from it. Most skin cancers can be successfully treated when they are caught early. But this takes some effort of prevention and early detection. An annual skin exam could very well be the thing to save your life or the life of your loved ones.
So make that appointment now We want you to have a happy and healthy long life ahead.