Your Skin Cancer Physical Exam: What to Expect

Your Skin Cancer Physical Exam: What to Expect

Have fair skin or love spending time in the sun?

It’s a good idea to ask your primary care provider if you should get regular skin cancer screenings! Here's what you can expect:

These visual checks by your regular provider or a dermatologist can help find skin
that could be cancerous or might turn into it someday. That’s important because
skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, but it’s also one of the easiest
kinds to treat if you catch it early.

The screening usually takes 10 minutes, or longer if the doctor sees any moles that
look unusual. You’ll take off all of your clothes and put on a medical exam gown.
Your provider will ask if you have any moles that concern you. Then, they will then
look at every inch of your body — from your face, chest, arms, back, and legs to
less-visible places like your scalp, between your toes, and the soles of your feet.

During a skin cancer screening, your provider is checking for the “ABCDEs” of each
mole, which are all possible signs of skin cancer:

  • Asymmetry: not the same shape on both sides
  • Border irregularity: ragged or blurred edges
  • Color: different shades of tan, brown, or black
  • Diameter: larger than 1/4 inch
  • Evoling: changes over time

Your provider will also check for actinic keratosis, skin changes caused by sun damage that, without treatment, can turn into cancer.

Call or visit the Health Center for more information on scheduling your screening.