If you took my advice and checked your skin for any discolored, oddly shaped, or unusually large moles and found something questionable, don't panic just yet. Only a doctor can determine if it's skin cancer. Follow these steps:
- Make an appointment with a dermatologist ASAP.
- At your appointment, have the doctor check that specific mole and other moles that worry you. The doctor may ask if you want a full-body examination, and I'd go for it since it can't hurt to have a professional take a thorough once-over of your skin.
- If the mole looks fine, the doctor will ask you to keep an eye on it. If they aren't sure, they'll recommend a skin test called a biopsy. The doctor will numb the area, and then slice off the mole (it sounds worse than it really is). Then the sample will be tested, and unfortunately you'll have to wait to hear back about the results. Just so you know, the biopsy may leave a scar, but it's better than cancer.
- When the doctor calls you back, you'll either receive good news (no cancer), or not so good news (cancerous). If it's the latter, you'll have to make another appointment to have the mole removed. The doctor will numb the area again, cut out the root of the mole and give you a few stitches. After the area has a chance to heal, you or the doctor must remove the stitches, which may also leave a scar.
To find out the next step
I know this doesn't sound like a party, but think of the alternative. It's great that we are so aware now of all the damage UV rays have on our skin, but for all the times when we didn't protect ourselves, it's great that dermatologists have the power to detect skin cancer at an early stage.