Time for your (skin) check-up!Sep 26, 2022
Time for your (skin) check-up!
Did you know that your skin needs a check-up just like the rest of your body?
Having an established relationship with a dermatologist is one of the best ways to catch skin conditions early, or prevent them completely. Fortunately, our skin is one of the most visible organs we have so a skin check can be relatively painless, minimally invasive and potentially save your life!
Who can benefit from a total body skin exam (TBSE)?
Typically, most adults in their mid-30s and onward should have a baseline skin check with a dermatologist. If you have a history of numerous sunburns, moles or family history of melanoma, or a personal history of skin cancer, then you will want to be seen even younger.
What happens during the TBSE?
During your skin check, you will be asked to wear a gown. I ask patients to undress to their comfort level. I begin the exam by asking the patient if they have any particular skin concerns. It’s also important to know about a patient’s medical history, current medications, and family history of cancers (skin and non-cutaneous) as these can all affect the skin and one’s risk for skin diseases.
I will then start the formal physical exam. I think it’s important to be systematic in one’s approach, that way nothing is missed. I always start with the scalp and work my way down to the toes. You may see your dermatologist use a special light called a dermatoscope to aid in evaluating lesions as well. After the exam, I then discuss my findings with my patient and we discuss the next steps. Sometimes that involves close monitoring, or reassurance, or even a skin biopsy or scraping. I always end the visit reinforcing good sun protective measures and making sure my patient’s questions are all answered.
And that’s it! This visit can actually be pretty quick and straightforward many times. A skilled dermatologist with experience evaluating the skin can actually do a TBSE in a surprisingly short amount of time. That’s because our eyes have been trained to easily spot the outliers and ‘ugly ducklings’ without getting distracted by the common and benign lesions.
To make the most of your TBSE be sure to follow these steps in preparation:
- Make sure your medical history is up-to-date: have you had any new medical diagnoses, recent surgeries?
- Make sure your list of medications is up-to-date: names of medicines, why you are taking them and dosage is important!
- Any updates in your family history: has a 1st degree relative been diagnoses with a cancer since your last visit.
- Remove nail polish on fingernails and toenails; however, if you have your nails done, make sure to evaluate them when you’re getting a mani/pedi in the future.
- Wear minimal or no make-up, especially foundation. This can obscure subtle skin findings making it difficult to detect early skin cancers.