September 6, 2017 | Stephen Fine, Founder and President
Expediting a Dermatologist Appointment
When educating people about melanoma, the fact that is stressed the most (equally alongside the importance of monthly skin self-examinations) is how crucial it is to have skin cancer quickly diagnosed and treated.
But what happens when you discover a suspicious skin growth and wisely go to have it checked out—only to learn that you can’t get a dermatologist appointment for an unacceptable length of time?
Above all else, the one thing that you’d never do is shrug your shoulders, take an “oh well, I tried” attitude, and then drop the matter. That could be a fatal mistake.
What can I do?
Dermatologist appointments are often scheduled 3 or more months in advance. That’s too long to wait if you’ve found something suspicious on your skin. However, before trying to expedite an appointment, be sure to check the photos and information on skincheck.org. Don’t “cry wolf”.
Once done, contact a (or your own) dermatologist, explain your concern, and state that you’ll accept any time slot opening they may have available to you. Also, ask if you can be called first in the event that another patient cancels a previously scheduled appointment. If you are successful at securing a quick appointment, don’t expect a complete skin exam. Generally, in these instances a dermatologist will focus solely on the source of your concern.
What can I do if I Still Can’t Get a Fast Appointment?
If you’ve done everything discussed above but still can’t get a fast appointment, (no longer than within 1 week) there are other avenues to pursue. You can:
- Contact the office of a board-certified general surgeon or plastic surgeon. They are fully trained in excising moles and early melanomas. They’re also typically available sooner for appointments than dermatologists are.
- Contact the dermatology department of a large hospital and make an appointment. You can often meet with a dermatologist without a referral; though your insurance company may require one before they’ll cover the cost of your visit. You will not be turned away regardless of your financial situation.
- Contact the American Academy of Dermatology (888-462-3376). or conduct an online search at Find a Dermatologist for information about dermatologists in your area.
With some exceptions, referrals are not usually difficult to obtain. If your physician does deny you one, either find another doctor or go get checked out anyway. General practitioners don’t have the extensive training and experience with skin cancer that dermatologists do. Unfortunately, this inexperience has led to numerous unnecessary melanoma deaths.
The bottom line is that these are merely petty obstacles that pale in comparison to the ultimately horrible end-result of an undiagnosed, untreated melanoma. Money and medical red tape should be no deterrents to protecting your health, and potentially saving your own life.