What many don’t know is that annual skin exams should be part of your regular health care routine. A skin exam is important in order to identify and treat skin cancer early, especially melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer. Early stages of skin cancer are almost always curable.
A full body skin exam typically takes 15 to 20 minutes. You will fully undress but wear a gown. You must remove even your socks and keep your hair down so your scalp is easily accessible. While skin cancer most commonly occurs on areas of the body with the most sun exposure, skin cancer can occur anywhere. The doctor will use a dermatoscope, a magnifying glass with a light, to examine skin lesions.
If the physician finds a suspicious looking mark or lesion, they will likely order a skin biopsy to determine if it’s cancerous or precancerous. If it is, another visit will be scheduled to have it removed.
Part of a skin exam is taking your family history. The doctor will ask if any of your relatives have had skin cancer, which could mean you are predisposed to developing it yourself. They will also ask about your skin safety habits, such as whether you use tanning beds or apply sunscreen when you go outside.