What Actually Happens at a Skin Cancer Screening?

June 17, 2015, In: Your Best Self

Did you know that you’re supposed to go for a skin cancer screening every year? It’s true. Now, of course, some of us put this off…just like going to the dentist, but we shouldn’t.

If you’ve never made an appointment with a dermatologist because you’re not sure what to expect, I’m here to help. So, just what actually happens at a skin cancer screening anyways?

Well, first things first. You will have to get naked. I mean, come on, your skin covers every inch of your body so skin cancer could be hiding anywhere. Unfortunately, just because you got a sunburn on your shoulders doesn’t mean a spot can’t show up “where the sun don’t shine” (literally!). It’s not that bad.


Next, you will cover yourself with one of those uncomfortable paper robes that crinkle and crack with every breath you take. I guess it’s better than standing there in only your birthday suit.

When the doctor comes in, they will look you over from head to toe. Not in the mean girl kind of way. They will have a special magnifying lens (like you’re a beautiful diamond they’re inspecting) and they’ll check out any spots that look suspicious. If you continue going to the same doctor year after year, this part may get easier as they get to know your skin.

So, here’s what might happen next:

Nothing. If you don’t have any spots that give them concern, they will simply send you on your way. They might even say you can wait an additional year or two before coming back.

You may have a simple biopsy. I’ve had this once. A spot was deemed suspicious and the doctor cut it out for further inspection in the lap. Actually that sounds more harsh than it was. The resulting cut was like I nicked myself with my razor. No big deal and it was numbed so I didn’t feel a thing. Did I mention that I was 8 months pregnant at the time…yep, I felt beautiful just hanging out with my big round belly.

You may need further testing. The doctor may find a spot that requires further testing by a different specialist. If this is the case, don’t put it off.

They might find a cancerous spot. This option sounds terrifying, but just because you don’t know about it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. As with any cancer, it’s best to catch it early. So, if this happens, you really are lucky you went for the screening.

At the Steve Yates Memorial Golf Tournament in 2014 we offered free skin cancer screenings for the first time and a melanoma was discovered on one of the golfer’s arms. The golfer, Carol, wrote a really nice article about her experience and how that screening saved her life. You can read it here.

I’m lucky too. The biopsy I had came back negative and I have not had any other suspicious spots come up in the years since. But, that doesn’t mean I’ll stop going each year.

I urge you to set up your skin cancer screening today and pass this on to your friends. Melanoma will affect one in 50 people in their lifetime. Carol didn’t think she’d be that one, but she was and she is alive because it was caught early.

Make yourself a success story.

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