Skin Cancer Overview

Skin Cancer Screening

Practicing good prevention and awareness is the key to keeping skin cancer away. Proper screening for skin cancer is important for everyone, but especially those with skin cancer risk factors.

Screening involves having a doctor examine your skin for possible skin cancer growths. During a regular office visit, the doctor does a head-to-toe check of the patient's skin. If you're older than 40, the American Cancer Society advises that, at minimum, you should have one once a year [source: Mayo Clinic]. Patients with risk factors may be advised to get screenings more often. Also, patients who find an unusual marking or growth that suddenly appears on the skin are advised to come in for a screening.

A routine screening can help prevent a skin cancer growth from reaching an advanced stage.

Screenings can be especially helpful in detecting melanoma in its early stages, because melanoma growths are visible to the naked eye. A doctor can immediately spot the characteristic signs of melanoma [source: National Cancer Institute].

For people who have been diagnosed with melanoma, doctors recommend regular screenings that vary according to what stage the melanoma has reached. At stage I, doctors recommend a yearly exam. For those at stage II, a screening is done every six months for the first two years and then once a year after that. For stage III patients, it's necessary to have a screening done every three months for the first year, every four months for the second year, and every six months to a year after that [source: New York Times Health].

Combined with at-home self-exams, screenings can be a good way to help prevent the advancement of skin cancer. However, when a malignant growth has been found, good treatment is the next step. Read on to learn about the various treatments available.