When you were a teenager and one pimple turned to 10, and then to 15, your dermatologist became your best friend; just in time for prom. And later, when you needed a little more brightness and youth restored to your face, your dermatologist made you the hit of your ten-year high school reunion. But did you know that in addition to saving your social life, seeing your dermatologist at least once a year could save your life?
The most common cancer in the world.
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common cancer, with an estimated 2.8 million cases diagnosed in the United States every year. Untreated skin cancer can, not only be disfiguring, it can be deadly. Unfortunately, it can also be tricky; sometimes looking like other skin conditions like psoriasis or eczema. Only your dermatologist can tell you for sure, but there are some warning signs to look for:
- A persistent sore that just won’t heal. If you have a sore that opens and bleeds, crusts over and starts to heal, but then just opens again, then it’s time to make an appointment.
- A persistent red, irritated area. Sometimes the patch may crust over or itch, but even if it doesn’t, anything persistent should be checked out.
- A shiny bump. These are often confused with moles and can be dark, pink, tan, or even white.
- A mole that has changed shape, size, or color. If it has irregular borders or lots of colors, make sure to point it out to your doctor.
Yes, even you are at risk.
Even if you are aware of skin cancer, and have never baked in the sun and always wear your big, floppy hat to work in the garden, these preventative measures still might not be enough. People most at risk are fair-skinned people with light eyes and those who have had excessive amounts of sun exposure. However, even those with dark skin tones who avoid the sun can get skin cancer.
Easily cured if found early.
Thankfully, if the cancer is found early enough, it is easily treated. Usually with just a quick excision in your dermatologist’s office you can be cancer free. Even if further treatments are necessary, they are typically minor and can be done as an outpatient. Of course, this is all if it is found in the early stages, which is why it is so important to see your dermatologist at least once a year for a screening.
You already get regular checkups from your family physician, your eye doctor, and your dentist. Be sure to include a regular check up from your dermatologist as well for a long and healthy life.