Skin cancer is a scary thought. As with many areas of medicine, prevention is usually better than cure. In addition to protecting your skin against harmful UV rays, you need to think about undergoing a skin check. By understanding more about where you can get one and what they involve, you can take greater control of your skin's health.
Checking your skin at home
Checking your skin at home is easy. The sooner you start, the sooner you become familiar with what is normal for you.
To make your check easier, take a systematic approach and make sure you have one large mirror and one small one. Start with your face and check it thoroughly. As your face spends more time exposed to the sun than other areas of your body, it's the area that's most vulnerable. From there, move downward through your neck, chest, arms, back and the lower half of your body. When you can't see a particular area easily, use your small mirror to bounce a reflection from your large mirror. If you see anything unusual, make a note of it and make an appointment with your GP.
Visiting your family doctor
Your GP will often act as the first port of call for skin checks when you notice something unusual. For example, if there's a mole that's itchy, crusting, oozing, asymmetrical or changing shape, it's worth seeing a family doctor.
At your appointment, your GP will ask a few questions about your family history, medical history and lifestyle factors such as sun exposure and cigarette use. They'll then look at the area you're concerned about. From there, they may either choose to review the situation later or refer you to a specialist.
Attending a specialist clinic
There are a few specialist clinics that perform skin checks throughout Australia. Although some of them require a GP referral, others are available on a self-referral basis.
In addition to performing the same thorough check your GP can provide, specialist clinics make use of dermatology tools. For example, they can examine a mole closer using a special camera. If you've been referred by your GP, they may choose to remove a mole and send it away for a biopsy. The results of biopsies are quite fast and can be ready in as little as two weeks.
By going for a skin check, you give yourself the chance to catch problems early. To maintain your health, always make sure you take a sensible approach to UV exposure.