Basal Cell Skin Cancer Screening - Memphis Dermatologist
George Woodbury Jr. M.D. 09/18/2023
Skin Cancer, including Basal Cell Skin Cancer, Squamous Cell Skin Cancer, and Melanoma, takes the lives of upwards of 20,000 Americans every year. That’s one person about every 24 minutes. The good news is that early detection through Skin Cancer Screening leads to early treatment, saving lives. Let’s take a look at tips and clues that Dermatologists like myself use to diagnose Skin Cancer early, my Memphis Dermatology practice having been with Rheumatology and Dermatology Associates, Cordova, TN, since 1993 (1-901-753-0168; 8143 Walnut Grove Road, Cordova TN 38018; www.Rheumderm.com/dermatology).
First, you’ve got to look for it to detect Skin Cancer. Many lives are saved by a concerned family member who inspects a loved one, detecting a changing growth or mole, and getting the patient to prompt medical attention. So to spot a suspicious growth early, you do need to get your family members pretty much naked, for a routine home inspection, because skin cancer can occur on all parts of the body.
Years ago, we Dermatologists taught that certain people were “high risk” for skin cancer: redheads, blonds, those who freckle easily, or those who love the sun or who have a history of severe sunburns. “Low-risk” people were those who routinely wear sunscreen, avoid the sun and tanning salon bulbs, or tan easily. But we now realize that really everyone’s at risk of skin cancer. In fact, African-Americans tend to be diagnosed much later, leading to a higher fatality rate!
Be aware that Skin Cancer affects more than just senior citizens. In fact, the median age for development of Melanoma is 52 years old. That means that half of cases occur in people younger than 52. And don’t forget to inspect your kids. Several thousand people under the age of 20 develop Melanoma in the U.S. each year, including several hundred below the age of 12.
So what do you watch for? What features of growth or mole cause higher concern, and might be a sign of a type of high-risk mole called an atypical mole?
Look for what we call the A, B, C, D, E warning signs:
A stands for Asymmetry: one half of the lesion does not match the other half.
B stands for Border: a jagged border, perhaps like the coast of Maine, rather than of Florida.
C stands for Color change: different hues of brown or black within the lesion, or one mole that’s a darker color than the person’s other moles.
D stands for an increasing Diameter of the lesion
E stands for Evolving: if the lesion is changing, it’s best to bring it to the attention of a Dermatologist.
The telltale feature of Basal Cell Skin Cancer, also called Basal Cell Carcinoma, is a translucent or almost clear-looking growth, usually on sun-exposed parts of the body. Squamous Cell Skin Cancer, or Squamous Cell Carcinoma, tends to be more scabbed or crusted, tending to bleed. Melanoma tends to be a pigmented lesion, meaning that it’s often black, brown, or gray in color.
The development of soreness or itching within a lesion can be a sign that it’s turned cancerous. So it’s a good idea to get that lesion checked by a Board-certified Dermatologist.
We know what action to take for suspicious moles or growths: if caught early, generally, a Dermatologic Surgeon like myself will use a simple removal, or “excision” of the lesion under local anesthetic. If the lesion turns out to be a precancerous lesion – such as a high-risk atypical mole – or perhaps a severely atypical solar keratosis or actinic keratosis - or a full-fledged skin cancer - we often try to ensure that the lesion is completely out – by doing what’s called a “re-excision.”
Mohs Surgery – available in my own practice as a Memphis Dermatologist since 2004 – is a special technique in which the Skin Cancer is cut out – and then processed right in the office – to check whether the borders of the specimen removed are clear of cancer or not. If those borders are not clear, we can then do a further stage or cycle or Mohs surgery to check once again for clear borders.
My own Memphis Dermatology practice these last 30 years has been with Rheumatology and Dermatology Associates, in Cordova, TN (1-901-753-0168; https://www.Rheumderm.com). Or you can find a Dermatologist closer to you by going to the American Academy of Dermatology website, AAD.org, then simply plugging your zip code into the “Find a Dermatologist” tab.
For more helpful tips and photos of melanoma, go to the Skin Cancer Foundation website: https://www.skincancer.org.
Or check out a short video on YouTube sponsored by my Memphis Dermatology practice, on the story of Scarlet Akins, a 26-year-old woman studying to be a teacher at Ole Miss. Scarlet was diagnosed with Melanoma when about seven months pregnant: “Understanding the Melanoma Crisis, Scarlet’s Story.”
So see spot. See spot change. See a Dermatologist!
George Woodbury Jr. M.D.
Rheumatology and Dermatology Associates PC
8143 Walnut Grove Road
Cordova TN 38018