Skin cancer checks – is yours being done properly?

If your doctor isn’t using sequential digital dermoscopy imaging in your skin cancer checks – you could have a problem.

What is sequential digital dermoscopy imagingnbc5905_opt

Dermoscopy is the technique where a Dr uses a hand held dermatoscope or a digital imaging camera that magnifies your skin up to 120x. It allows your Dr to see any areas of concern that are just not seen with the naked eye.

Sequential digital dermoscopy involves the digital capture and assessment of a sequence of images taken over time to assess changes in any spots of concern. If your Dr’s concerned it might be cancer, they might monitor the spot after a three-month period for any changes. Or they might use sequential digital dermoscopy to map your spots for standard surveillance (every 6-12 months).

What happens if sequential digital dermoscopy imaging isn’t used?

All too often we hear of negative, sometimes devastating, effects of skin cancers being left too long without someone having gotten the help that they needed earlier.

There are a number of reasons that might happen such as;

  • Fear.  The patient notices a spot on their skin, notices it changing and thinking that ‘might be skin cancer’ is too scared to do something about it. So they leave it, just never telling anyone, often until it’s too late.
  • Not noticing. Skin cancers, particularly melanomas, can crop up in some odd places, like between the toes, on the soles of your feet, under fingernails, in the anal area, on the scalp – particularly if hidden by hair). Yes, melanoma is well known for popping up in sites that don’t often/never get exposed to the sun. That’s why it’s important to have regular skin cancer checks by someone with experience who knows where to look and what they’re looking for.
  • Out of date diagnostic tools. This means skin cancers are being missed even when the patient is paying for a ‘skin cancer check’. Once upon a time, Drs had to rely on just their eyes to pick up skin cancer.
    • Then Drs and specialists started using a light wand. This better illuminated the patch of skin the Dr was looking at – still hoping the naked eye would detect anything problematic.
    • Then came the magnification lamp. This is the kind of thing you see used in beautician’s salons (and sometimes it might be worn on the head like a pair of magnification goggles). These were definitely a step up as they would magnify the skin area of concern up to 2-10x. Now that sounds great. But, given earlier diagnosis is always better and a melanoma can start at the size of a pinhead – 10x magnification just doesn’t cut it any longer. Now we’ve got dermoscopy equipment, which magnifies to 120x and sequential digital dermoscopy imaging (or SDDI) cutting edge technology simply must be used.
  • Incorrect diagnosis. If the person doing your skin cancer check, is only using the tools outlined above, and not using a SDDI type technology, then the patient can be incorrectly diagnosed as ‘nothing to worry about’ or ‘let’s just watch how that goes’. And if the spot is a melanoma, or even an SCC, then that can have devastating consequences.

Next blog post we’ll talk about the added side benefits of sequential digital dermoscopy imaging for patients. There’s actually been some really exciting outcomes. But that’s for next time. 

In the meantime, if you have a spot, or mole that you’re concerned about and you want to make sure that your skin is being checked using the best diagnostic tools available, you can call us on 9999 0336 (Northern Beaches clinic) or 9223 1608 (Sydney City clinic) or you can pop your details in the form below and we’ll get back to you shortly with our next available appointment.

Northern Beaches

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

Sydney City

L16, 109 Pitt St, Sydney

Appointment availability: Mondays & Thursday Only
Appointment times: 8.30 am - 5:30 pm
Phone: 02 9223 1608