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Your Healthy Family: What to expect during a skin check at the dermatologist

Posted at 3:16 PM, Jun 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-30 17:16:11-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — In May, Melanoma Awareness Month - and June we did several stories around Melanoma, and the importance of protecting your skin and catching Melanoma early.

Your Healthy Family: Canon City woman urges skin prevention after almost losing her life
Your Healthy Family: Ken Landau’s melanoma journey, 5 years later
Your Healthy Family: Small skin scare leads Springs man to consistent prevention steps
Your Healthy Family: Colorado cases of Melanoma expected to be on the rise in 2021
Your Healthy Family: Can you spot the warning signs of Melanoma?

Through those stories, and thinking about how often I get a little sunburned because I forget to put on sunscreen I decided at the age of 52 it was time to be looked over by a dermatologist. As I’m aging I found that compared to other cancer screenings I now have annually - this was pretty much a walk in the park.

Dr. Brett Matheson, MD, FACMS with the Skin Cancer & Dermatology Center of Colorado Springs who examined me says, “We perform complete skin exams on patients all the time in our office. The entire skin is discreetly examined looking for any suspicious lesions.”

Some have told me they have felt uncomfortable with having their skin checked by a dermatologist, and while they will make sure to look at all your skin, there should be a level of communication about what you’re comfortable with.

Dr. Matheson says, “Usually patients undress to their underwear and the patient is given a gown, so they can be discreetly examined to a person's comfort level.”

Dr. Matheson also told me that if you have a lot of moles it's a good idea to have them looked at, but the majority of existing moles most people have are in no way a symptom of melanoma. “There are all sorts of benign growths that can occur on the skin and most things are harmless.

There are certain warning signs for particular moles or lesions that are suspicious for cancer. The more moles you have, the higher there is for a risk of melanoma. That being said, you don't have to have a lot of moles to develop melanoma. Two thirds of melanoma develops on an otherwise previously clear area of the skin.”

Dr. Matheson also says most of the time the trained eye is all that is needed but sometimes a dermatologist will use what’s called a dermatoscope, an instrument magnifying the lesion giving the doctor a view with a little more detail. If anything looks suspicious, “The gold standard is a biopsy that is usually done on the spot. It's a simple procedure that requires some numbing up of the skin and then a small piece is taken as a sample. It’s sent to the lab where a pathologist looks at it under the microscope and determines if it’s cancer or not.”

Using sunscreen, beginning at an early age and keeping a close eye on any changes to existing moles or new moles, and catching melanoma early continue to be the best prevention measures to allow melanoma to become a real problem.

Dr. Matheson says, “Once you’ve had a melanoma, your risk of getting a second increases. I have several patients that have had three melanomas, but they’ve all been caught early, and they’re doing fine. Early detection is really the key.”

If you have any questions, follow up with your doctor or give the team at the Skin Cancer and Dermatology Center of Colorado Springs, at 800-290-2478 or (719) 574-0310 extension 5. You can also visit their homepage at https://www.skincancerandderm.com/