Skin Cancer Screenings: Insurance, Exams, and More

Health Writer
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It is important to detect and treat skin cancer early. When melanoma is diagnosed in Stage 1 and treatment is started more than 30 days after the biopsy, the risk of dying from the disease increases by 5 percent. When not treated for more than four months, the risk increases to 41 percent, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Here is some straightforward advice to help your screening process go more smoothly.


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How often should you have a skin check?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), everyone should regularly conduct skin self-exams. If you notice changes, such as moles itching or bleeding, or changing color, contact a dermatologist right away for a more comprehensive check. People with increased risks, such as men over 50; those with more than 50 moles or large or unusual moles; those with a history of skin cancer; and those with fair skin should talk to a doctor about how often a skin check is recommended.


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Does insurance cover skin cancer screenings?

There’s no simple answer to this question. “Insurance policies have inconsistent coverage for cancer screening,” according to the Prevent Cancer Foundation. Because policies have different coverages and requirements, it is important to contact your insurance company to find out whether skin cancer screenings by a dermatologist are covered and if so, how often they are covered.


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Does Medicare cover screenings?

Medicare does not cover skin cancer screenings for asymptomatic people, according to the National Institutes of Health. That means purely preventative exams that are not prompted by a specific reason are not covered. However, if you notice a new spot or a change in an existing lesion or mole, a visit to the dermatologist for evaluation is covered.


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What if you don’t have insurance?

If you don’t currently have health insurance or if your insurance does not cover annual exams, there are still ways to have a doctor complete a check of your skin. Keep reading to find where you can go for a free or low-cost exam.


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Find free AAD SPOTme skin cancer screenings

The AAD’s SPOTme skin cancer program has been around since 1985, has conducted more than 2.7 million free skin cancer screenings, and has detected more than 30,000 suspected melanomas in the past four decades. Free screenings are held around the United States. On the AAD website you can search for a screening near you or sign up to be notified of a free screening within 50 miles of your home.


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Find free, low-cost, or sliding-scale clinics

Needymeds.com maintains a database of over 16,000 clinics around the United States that offer free, low-cost, or sliding-scale-fee exams. To find out more about the fees for office visits, find a clinic near you and contact the office directly.


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Conduct self-skin checks

While they don’t take the place of a skin exam by a board-certified dermatologist, regular self-skin checks are important. Stand in front of a mirror and check every part of your body, making sure to check your scalp, ears, toes, and soles of your feet. Look for lesions/moles that aren’t healing, are changing in size, shape or color, or are new. Take pictures of any spots and track them from month to month. Contact a doctor or free clinic regarding any suspicious spots, lesions, or moles.