We all know that protecting our skin from the sun is the most vital step in preventing skin cancer. What if your lifestyle makes it difficult to avoid the sun? What if you have a history of skin cancer in your family?
And remember – UV light from the sun just increases your chances of getting the disease so you can still get it even without sun exposure. You’re just much more likely to get it if you have had a lot of sun exposure, such as by living in Cairns.
The best way to manage skin cancer is to make sure you detect it early and get treatment.
How can I detect skin cancer?
There’s no one specific thing that you can look for, but here is a simple guide from the doctors at our Cairns clinic to give you an idea of the suspicious signs – S-C-A-N your skin (Sore, Changing, Abnormal, New):
- Sore – is the spot sore? Does it take longer than 6 weeks to heal?
- Changing – is the spot changing in size, shape or colour?
- Abnormal – does the spot look or feel different when compared to other spots? Does it stand out as being of concern?
- New – is it a new spot on your body?
If you have any concerns, make an appointment with one of our GPs (where no referral is needed) or with our Dermatologist, Dr Simon Tucker (with a referral from your GP) at Cairns Skin Centre by calling (07) 4032 6788. All of the GPs at our clinic are members of the Skin Cancer College of Australia and New Zealand. They have a special interest in the disease, and have undergone additional training specific to the diagnosis, management and treatment of skin cancer.
What happens during a skin cancer check?
How long does the skin check take?
A skin cancer check at our clinic usually takes around 10-15 minutes. This will allow time for your doctor to ask questions about any concerns you might have. Make sure to tell your doctor about any spots or moles that are sore, changing, abnormal, or new.
What happens if my doctor suspects a mole or spot could be skin cancer?
Your doctor will tell you immediately if they believe any of your moles or spots are of concern. If it is, the doctor will discuss the options with you first. Before treating a suspected cancer you generally need to know exactly what type it is so that the most appropriate treatment can be planned. This is usually done by taking a biopsy (sample) to conduct further testing.
Sometimes, if it is not too suspicious, a photograph can be taken and compared a few months later but generally, if your doctor thinks it might be a skin cancer, it’s usually best to find out straight away. The surgery is minor and can be done in one of our procedure rooms.
Once removed, the sample is sent away for testing at a pathology lab. Test results usually only take a few days to come back.
What happens if skin cancer is found?
In most cases, it can be treated easily and successfully with simple surgery. This is usually done in the purpose-built operating rooms at Cairns Skin Centre.
More complex procedures may need to be done by a specialist. Dermatologist Dr Simon Tucker performs procedures in our rooms. Some early, less aggressive skin cancers can sometimes be treated with other non-surgical methods. Your doctor will discuss the options with you to ensure that you get the best possible treatment available. By having the on-site support of a Dermatologist, the doctors at the Cairns Skin Centre can offer a wide range of treatment options.
What happens after my skin cancer check?
A skin cancer check does two things – it can check any suspicious spots that you may have and it also gives you a ‘clean slate’ to start from. The most important thing is to regularly check your own skin so, if anything changes in any way, even if it is next week, get it checked immediately.
Most melanomas come from normal skin not just pre-existing moles, so you need to look for any new spot as well as old spots that are changing. In addition to your self-check, you should get a regular professional skin cancer check. The frequency of these can range from months to years depending on your risk factors. At your consultation your doctor will discuss with you how often you should be checked..
Did you know:
- 1-in-every-2 Australian’s will get cancer in their lifetime.
- Queensland has the highest rates of skin cancer in the world – with around 3,000 melanoma and 133,000 non-melanoma skin cancers diagnosed each year.
- More than 90% of skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun.
* Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.