May 16, 2017 | Stephen Fine, Founder and President
What to do if a Suspicious Growth is Found During a Skin Self-exam
One of the major tenets essential to melanoma education is for everyone to perform regular skin self-examinations. All it entails is a few minutes once a month during which you simply check over your skin from head to toe. (And palms to soles).
No surface area of the body, nor inside the mouth, is to be excluded. A close friend, loved one or doctor can check the places you can’t; such as the back, scalp, neck, and inside and around both ears. (For information regarding the two types of melanoma, read our blog post Radial and Nodular Melanoma.)
If your completed skin self-exam reveals nothing unusual, that’s excellent. However, if a suspicious new mole, or changes to a pre-existing one is discovered, the time to act is right away.
My Self-exam has Revealed a Suspicious Mole. What do I do?
It’s likely that your first instinct would, understandably, be to contact your general practitioner. However, call a dermatologist instead. Most family doctors receive minimal, if any, dermatological training while attending medical school. This leads to melanomas being missed or misdiagnosed in their earliest stages, which is the most crucial time to confirm them.
Some insurance companies require a referral from your primary care physician. If yours is among them, request that he or she quickly provide you with one.
What if There is a Long Wait for a Dermatologist Appointment?
If you encounter the hurdle of a weeks, or even months-long wait before a dermatologist can see you, you still have multiple choices. Contact the office and explain that the skin growth you’ve discovered resembles a melanoma, and that you don’t want to wait. You can also ask them to call you first if a previously scheduled patient cancels an appointment.
If you’re unsatisfied with what the dermatologist’s offices tells you, make an appointment with a plastic or general surgeon. Their qualifications to excise new melanomas are equal to those of dermatologists. You can often get in to see them sooner, too.
The one option to absolutely avoid is to make a distant appointment, and then just wait around for it. In the financial world, the old saying is time is money. In the world of melanoma, it’s time is mortality.
The procedure to remove an early melanoma isn’t difficult or time consuming. In fact, if it is a melanoma that has been caught soon enough, its quick removal is often the cure itself. And once the growth has been excised, be sure to instruct the surgeon or dermatologist to have a dermapathologist (rather than a general pathologist) perform the biopsy. He or she will have greater training and experience with distinguishing the subtle nuances that often occur between a benign mole and actual skin cancer.
In the 18 years since the Melanoma Education Foundation was created, no one within the organization has ever encountered a single person who has ever regretted the removal of a suspicious skin growth.
So please, don’t be shy and do be persistent. Remember, it may very well be nothing. But if it is melanoma any delay in diagnosis will increasingly begin to put your life at risk.
*Additional source: Skincheck.org (Page 5)