The risk for both men and women developing some form of skin cancer in the United States has steadily been on the rise in recent years. Whether it’s a diagnosis of Squamous Cell Carcinoma, Basal Cell Carcinoma or Melanoma, it’s becoming more crucial than ever that individuals are able to identify the signs, symptoms, and potential for skin cancer well before a diagnosis ever occurs.
Dermatologists and medical professionals across a variety of fields agree that there are a number of factors that can lead to the development of skin cancer. While many cases of skin cancer can be linked back to exposure to UV rays, genetics, age and previous diagnosis of cancer can all be contributing factors in the development of skin cancer.
Preventative measures are key to staying one step ahead of skin cancer and modern research shows that men and women alike should be performing a skin self-examination at least once a month. Those that are at a higher risk of developing skin cancer are encouraged to perform self-checks more often, particularly those with extremely fair skin. During a skin self-examination, an individual will be looking closely at moles, sun spots and birthmarks that may have changed in any way over time. Indicators of potential skin cancer include moles that are irregular in shape or change in color, size or texture over time.
In addition to self-exams, it is highly recommended that an annual check-up be scheduled so that a physician can take the time necessary to exam skin thoroughly for any signs of change or potential skin cancer. In the event a self-examination or annual exam leads to points of concern, a skin biopsy will most likely be performed in the office to confirm or eliminate a diagnosis of skin cancer.
A skin biopsy is a common procedure and is essential in providing a diagnostic lab with a sample to confirm or eliminate suspicions surrounding the development of skin cancer. Additionally, a skin biopsy may be performed to help treat conditions that include infections, warts, Dermatitis, Actinic Keratosis or of course, suspicious moles.
During a skin biopsy, a lesion such as a mole or growth is removed and examined at a lab for diagnosis. In general, there are three types of biopsies that may be performed by a physician. A Shave biopsy requires a physician to remove only a top layer of skin utilizing a small razor. A Punch biopsy involves the use of a circular medical device to remove the growth including a portion of deeper layers. Finally, an Excisional biopsy requires the use of a scalpel to remove the entire area presenting as an abnormality. This may be the removal of only a mole or skin surrounding the mole as well.
In general, the majority of skin biopsy procedures are considered highly safe and come with a minimal risk of bleeding, bruising, scarring or infection. Once a biopsy has been completed, the sample is sent off to the lab and results are usually available within a few days or a few weeks depending on the severity of the sample.
In the event it’s determined that a patient requires a biopsy, it’s important that the patient share any allergies to medications with their physician, particularly if local anesthetic will be used during the procedure. Equally important is for a patient to let their doctor know about medications they may be taking or any bleeding disorders they suffer from prior to undergoing the biopsy.
Once the procedure is completed, some patients require stitches which can be applied as dissolvable or removable depending on a physician’s take on the biopsy area.
Staying a step ahead of a skin cancer diagnosis is a proactive process that patients must actively participate in. When it comes to recognizing the signs and symptoms, the first line of defense is always a skin self-examination and an annual check-up. While not every exam or checkup will lead to the need for a biopsy, knowing when it’s required is important in early diagnosis. When you’ve made the choice to take steps towards protecting your skin from the development of skin cancer, be sure to schedule an appointment with Dr. Wright and his team at the St. Louis Laser Lipo and Vein Center.
Our clinic always takes a comprehensive approach to patient care and making sure each and every patient enjoys a comfortable, safe and successful experience with us is a priority. As a professional dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon, Dr. Wright is proud to offer patients a variety of service and treatment options when it comes to skin care. Contact us to schedule a skin cancer screening, annual appointment or one of several treatment services in the event you are considering a biopsy or require personalized treatment post-diagnosis.