Twice a year I see my dermatologist, Dr. Ha, for a full body skin and lymph check. I’ve been seeing him since about 2000 after my mom suggested I have a dermatologist look at a flaky place over my lip. It was precancerous and he froze it off, but in the process of the examination Dr. Ha found a decent sized basal cell carcinoma on my back. It was the first of many, and started my on-going relationship with my new doctor.
A typical visit with a dermatologist to have a full body check usually takes only a few minutes. You’ll be asked to change into a stylish hospital gown that ties in the back, and is designed to fit patients from petite ballerinas to NFL linebackers. As the name of the examination implies, your doctor will examine your entire body, even parts that are covered with your swimsuit when you’re out in the sun.
If it’s your first visit, your doctor will do a baseline check and make notes on your chart, mapping out any moles and spots worth keeping an eye on. This will be extremely important for future visits if there’s ever a need to look back and make comparisons.
On future visits your dermatologist should ask if you have any concerns, and if he doesn’t, don’t be shy to point out anything new or any changes you’ve noticed. How often you need to make follow-up appointments will be determined by your skin type, previous sun damage, your age, etc.
If your doctor finds anything suspicious he will most likely biopsy it. After taking a small sampling of the mole or skin, he will send it away to have it checked. You will usually get your pathology results within a week.
If your biopsy comes back positive for skin cancer, your dermatologist will have you come back in to either surgically remove it or start a chemical treatment with an ointment.
On my visit today, Dr. Ha found two suspicious spots that he biopsied. Prior to today’s visit, he has biopsied 49 spots and only two have come back negative – that’s 1 melanoma and 46 basal cells. He has a good eye, and my guess is that these two newest spots are early basal cells.
Because so many of my readers and friends have asked me which sunscreen I use and recommend, I asked Dr. Ha for his recommendations. For faces he recommended Tizo3 Solar Protection and for the body he recommends Vanicream Sport. I have been using Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch for my face and Neutrogena Ultimate Sport Spray for my body for several years and have had good results with both. The advantages of Tizo and Vanicream are that they don’t need to be applied 30 minutes in advance of going out into the sun. For me, that would be a huge advantage.
Because I already have my summer’s supply of sunscreen purchased, I’ll stick with my Neutrogena until I run out, but plan to give Dr. Ha’s recommendations a try.
There’s nothing to be afraid of when having a skin check. Your doctor has seen all body types and isn’t going to judge you. I’m so glad I have such a good relationship with Dr. Ha. I’m confident of his care, and I’m literally putting my life into his hands. He has to be happy to have me as a patient – my visits alone will pay for his children’s college tuition!
- What other skin related topics besides the ones listed below would you like to see covered this month?
- How much time do you spend out in the sun?
- What are your sun protection tips?
As promised in This May, Please Learn From My Mistakes, look for these other articles on Deb Runs during the month of May:
- Confessions Of A Tanning Goddess
- That Odd Looking Spot Sure Doesn’t Look Like Melanoma
- Connecting The Dots
- Tips For Running Safely In The Sun
- Sunscreen Surprise
- Alternatives To Tanning
- 2014 TKO Melanoma 5K Race Recap