Are you at Risk of Skin Cancer?
Know what you are looking for. SCAN Your Skin (Sore : Changing : Abnormal : New = SCAN)
Most of us know that protecting our skin from the sun is the most important step to preventing skin cancer.
> But what if your skin hasn’t always been protected?
> Maybe you can’t always avoid the sun?
> Or perhaps there is a history of skin cancer in your family?
Preventing skin cancer is also about knowing your risk level. The most effective management is early detection and treatment.
This simple guide has been developed by doctors and researchers so you can quickly calculate your skin cancer risk and recognise the early signs of skin cancer. You don’t need any special skills – simply answer ten easy questions and take a few minutes to SCAN your skin.
It’s your doctor’s job to diagnose skin cancer, but you will know better than anyone else if something on your skin is new or changing – two important early warning signs. Remember – together with sun protection, early detection is your best defense against skin cancer.
What should I know about skin cancer?
> Australia and New Zealand have the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world
> Skin cancers account for around 80% of all newly diagnosed cancers
> More than 90% of skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun
> Melanoma is the most common life threatening cancer in the 15 to 44 year age group
> Melanoma is the third most common life threatening cancer in both men and women overall
What is your risk of developing skin cancer?
Take this online test at www.scanyourskin.org to find out your risk level.
How to check for Skin Cancer
Here is a simple guide to help you check your skin and recognise the early signs of skin cancer.
> The more of the above SCAN features a spot or mole has the more concerning it may be. (e.g. a New mole that is Changing in appearance and that is Abnormal is one that should be checked by a doctor urgently.)
> Most people have made all their moles by the time they are 40. A new mole after this age is more suspicious, and the older you are the more suspicious a new mole is.
> If you do find a spot or mole of concern, see your doctor for either a “spot check”, or a full skin check.
> Become familiar with the spots and moles on your skin. You should check your own, and/or your partner’s, skin regularly.
It’s your doctor’s job to diagnose skin cancer, but you will know better than anyone else if something on your skin is new or changing – two important early warning signs.
Remember – together with sun protection, early detection is your best defense against skin cancer.
How long does a skin check take?
A skin check can take up to 30 minutes. This includes some time for the doctor to ask you questions about your general health. Make sure you tell the doctor about any spots or moles you have which are new, sore, changing or unusual. The actual check of your skin can take from 5 to 20 minutes depending on your skin type and the number of moles and spots to be looked at.
What equipment does the doctor use?
Your doctor will use a dermatoscope to have a close up / magnified look at any spots of concern. A dermatoscope is a bit like a torch with a magnifying glass attached to the end. Using a dermatoscope is painless. Sometimes the doctor may take a photograph of a spot or mole so it can be monitored over time for any changes in appearance.
Do I have to get undressed?
Yes – down to your underwear.
What happens if the doctor finds anything that could be skin cancer?
Your doctor will tell you straight away if you have any moles or spots which require testing. To test the mole or spot the doctor will either take a small biopsy (sample) of it, or completely excise (cut out) the spot of concern – under local anaesthetic of course. In most cases another appointment will be made to remove the abnormal mole or spot. This type of minor surgery can be carried out at your doctor’s surgery or office. There is usually no need for this to be done in a hospital.
After it is removed, the mole or spot is sent to a pathology laboratory for testing. Receiving the test results can take from one to several days, depending on the pathology provider.
What happens if skin cancer is found?
In most cases, when found early, skin cancer can be easily and successfully treated with surgery. Most skin cancers are cured once they are removed. Other non surgical treatments such as creams, radiotherapy, or light therapy may be used but this will depend on the type of skin cancer found.
What happens after the skin check?
Depending on your level of risk for developing skin cancer, your doctor may recommend regular follow up skin checks. The frequency for follow up skin checks can vary from every few months, to once every year or two. Most doctors will have a system in place to send you a skin check reminder, but it is also a good idea to keep your own record of when a follow up skin check is due.
How much does a skin check cost?
The cost for a skin check will vary depending on the practice or clinic you visit. Within Australia, if you hold a valid Medicare card, in most cases you will be able to claim for a rebate. It is best to check with your doctor or clinic before making an appointment.