Last blog we wrote about what might happen if you waited too long to have a suspicious spot looked at. This week we thought we might take a different view of what happens at a skin cancer clinic – that of a patient.
One of our patients, who by virtue of patient confidentiality must remain nameless, offered to write about her first experience getting a skin cancer check up and we thought that was a great idea. So take it away, patient x.
My skin cancer check patient experience…
After having read a bit on the internet about the importance of skin cancer checks and having incredibly fair skin (my children describe it as so white it sparkles like a vampire). I thought I’d best have one of my own. And whilst I was on the phone booking my appointment, I scheduled one for my ‘reef oil’ loving husband too.
I was a kid of the 70’s and 80’s where sunburn was just something you endured at the beginning of each summer along with the ‘annual peeling’. Serious sunscreen, rashies and hats as protection weren’t really terribly available and to be brown was to be ‘healthy’. I gave up on being brown after a full day at the beach with not much sunscreen with two girlfriends of Greek origin at the age of 17. They went dark, dark brown and I endured sunstroke for 2-3 weeks. Thirty years later, I wonder how that ‘brown skin’ is surviving now with another 30 years of sunbaking.
Now I have kids of my own, I’m the sunscreen, rashy, hat nazi – much to the chagrin of my teenager. However, she is becoming aware as she sees what happens as skin ages on me and some of our more sun-loving friends. And whilst on the surface, that’s all about cosmetic beauty, I’ll take getting them to protect their skin any way I can.
So what’s it really like to get a skin cancer check up?
For the day or two before my appointment, I was a bit nervous about what would be found – kind of like you do before having a mammogram (FYI – lads and ladies there’s no pain involved with a skin cancer check up). But, better that a spot be found whilst it’s just a suspicious spot or lump, rather than a full-blown Stage 4 cancer, melanoma or otherwise.
After meeting me in the waiting room and shaking my hand warmly, Dr Green ushered me into a clean treatment room, with a bush view outside the window, which gave me something to look at to calm my nerves whilst Dr Green explained the skin cancer check process. He took some history and mentioned that, I have Type1 skin – the kind that’s most at risk.
He showed me behind a curtain and arranged a gown for me to put on after striping down to bra and underwear. He put on his skin check ‘goggles’ that allowed him to blow up my skin’s surface and quite literally went over every inch of it (except genitalia) – feeling for bumps with his fingertip at the same time.
Examining my spots
He pointed out some small pinky/red spots that were called angiomas (nothing more exciting than stuff that happens when you’re over the age of 40) and photographed one using a special tool so I could see what it looked like blown up by 120 times on the computer screen. Nothing sinister there. I also asked about two spots on my back that I’d been watching for a little while. Nothing sinister there either – they were just seborrhaeic keratoses as was a small scaly patch behind my knee. But Dr Green photographed those too just so we could keep an eye on them if things changed.
Then my whole back and legs were photographed (hmmmm – more gym required this year) creating a record of where the spots were that we were watching.
Finally, I was given a blow dry with a hair dryer. Now that might seem weird at a skin cancer check clinic, but I have longish hair, so moving the hair about with a blow dryer makes life easier to see any potential spots on my head that I might so easily have missed.
Declared “flawless” – hooray!
At the end I was pronounced as having very close to ‘flawless’ skin. Gee thanks Dr Green!! But really, rather than being flattered, all I could think was “phew – staying out of the sun for the last 30+ years actually paid off.” And all those micro-moments of wondering about the lumps and bumps on my skin at 3am were laid to rest.
That’s not to say, I don’t have to remain vigilant about changes on my skin. Dr Green explained that I should set up a regime of checking my skin regularly just like you might do with a quick self breast checks – a once over with eyes and finger tips too before or after a shower. And if I pick anything up to come back. But if not, a once-a-year check up was all that was necessary.
PS: in case you’re wondering about the ‘reef-oil loving husband’, Dr Green showed him how much damage was happening to his skin and found a couple of small things to watch. But aside from that, let’s just say he escaped very, very lightly and will be using SPF 50+ from now on.
So if you’ve got a spot that might need to be checked or you’ve been sunburned at some point in your life and haven’t had your skin checked by a skin cancer Dr yet (or for a while), please put your mind to rest and schedule a skin cancer check.
You can call us on 9999 0336 (Northern Beaches clinic) or 9223 1608 (Sydney City clinic) or you can put your details in the form below and we’ll get back to you shortly with our next available appointment.
Don't delay. Book your appointment today.
Call and book on 9999 0336 (Northern Beaches) or 9223 1608 (Sydney City) or drop us your best contact number or email address and we'll get in touch with you.
Either way, it might be the best thing you do for yourself today.