Ready for Winter? Before you put on that jumper, have you had your annual winter skin cancer check?
Now you’re probably thinking no, no that’s a Summer thing. Surely with winter nearly upon us, it’s time to wrap up in multiple layers of clothing and huddle around the nearest log fireplace.
Why think about a winter skin cancer check?
But what most people forget though is that hiding underneath all of those lovely warm layers could be something that might otherwise be more visible in the warmer months. And it could be hiding for almost 4-6 months. That could be just long enough for a lump or bump, left to its own devices to invade healthy skin tissue.
The research tells us that if we detect skin cancer when it’s less than 0.9mm thick, there’s usually a pretty good outcome. Once a skin cancer becomes thicker than that, investigations into spread are required. And with an aggressive skin cancer, a couple of months under a jumper could be all the time required to go from a minor issue to something significantly more sinister.
The research also tells us that just doing a quick sweep with your eyes, whilst great from a routine monthly DIY check perspective, doesn’t cut the mustard. Why? Well in a nutshell, it’s because not every skin cancer (even melanomas) looks like ‘skin cancer’.
What does skin cancer look like?
Skin cancer isn’t always big, lumpy and obvious. It can be tiny, think pinhead small. It’s not just browny-black or ugly. It can also be pink, red, blue, tan or even white. There’s even a nasty skin cancer that looks a little like an ordinary faded old scar – white-ish/skin colour. That kind can be extremely aggressive and require significant surgery. Even though it’s not considered ‘life threatening’ like a melanoma, it can be invasive and cause great damage to surrounding tissues.
It’s only when you really, really know what you’re looking for, have years of experience in finding them and use cutting-edge imaging and diagnostic technologies, that you find them. Merely looking with your eyes or even a magnifying glass, doesn’t do the job. A professional skin cancer doctor won’t just check a spot or two, they’ll go over every inch of your skin – magnified at up to 120x.
Your skin is roughly 2 square meters wide. That’s a lot of area to cover when you’re not sure what you’re looking for. Obviously, if you’ve noticed changes such as size, colour, itching, etc in your regular lumps and bumps, you’ll want to get that checked out immediately.
Why a winter skin cancer check can work in your favour
But did you know that Winter also works well for skin cancer checks because your skin will have had a bit of time to recover from the harsh summer sun and settle back to its new (Winter) normal? With your skin less traumatised (in Winter), it makes it easier to detect any changes in size, shape or colour since your last skin cancer check. From a Dr’s perspective that’s an absolute win-win.
That’s why it’s best to schedule in an annual skin cancer check up when the weather cools. Perhaps put a reminder into your phone (like you might do for a pap-smear, breast exam or testicular check).
Then once you get the all good, you can safely layer on up in the woollies for Winter.
If you’ve got any worries about something you’ve seen on yours or a family member’s skin, you can call us on 9999 0336 (Northern Beaches clinic) or 9223 1608 (Sydney City clinic) if you work in town. Or you can pop your details in the form below and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.
Building Q1, Level 2, Suite 9, 4 Daydream St, Warriewood
Appointment availability: Monday – Friday
Appointment times: 8.30am-5.00pm
Phone: 02 9999 0336
Fax: 02 9999 0337
L16, 109 Pitt St, Sydney
Appointment availability: Mondays & Thursday Only
Appointment times: 8.30 am - 5:30 pm
Phone: 02 9223 1608