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During a physical exam for a skin problem, your doctor will examine the skin over your whole body, looking for suspicious growths, moles, or lesions. The exam is done using a bright light and sometimes a magnifying lens. The scalp is examined by parting the hair.
A skin exam is done if you have:
Early signs of skin cancer are a change in the skin, such as a growth, an irritation or a sore that does not heal, or a change in a wart or a mole.
The ABCDE rule of detection means watching for:
Other signs of melanoma in a mole include changes in:
Signs of skin cancer include:
Photographs may be used to document and detect changes in the skin, especially atypical moles. Some medical centers use computers to compare photographs taken at an earlier exam with new photographs of suspicious moles and lesions. This technique may more accurately determine whether a mole or lesion is changing.
Doctors don't have to do a biopsy to see if a lesion is benign (noncancerous). They may use a dermatoscope to see spots on the skin. This tool's special magnifying lens and light source help the doctor see the skin more clearly. Also, with a method called confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM), doctors can look even more closely at changes in the cells and tissue of the skin.
Some experts think it's a good idea to check your own skin every month and have your doctor check periodically. People who are at risk for skin cancer or those who are over 40 years old may want to have their doctor check their skin every year. If you have already had skin cancer, your doctor will recommend more frequent exams.
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