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Full Body Skin Exams

Staying safe from skin cancer requires a commitment to full body skin exams – monthly, done at home on yourself or with a partner, and annually by one of our expert dermatologists. This helps you recognize which moles or lesions are new or have changed in size, color or texture.

What to Expect
Please schedule an annual full body skin exam as you would a normal appointment. Remember that this will entail a “complete” visualization in which your entire body will be scanned, including fingers, toes and areas usually covered by undergarments. Always point out any moles or other unusual skin changes that bleed or haven’t healed, as these need to be examined especially carefully.

What if You Find Something?
Sometimes there will one or more areas that are suspicious in nature and our experts may suggest a biopsy to rule out surface skin irregularities. There are several types of skin biopsy, depending on the lesion’s size and location. Most often our dermatologists perform what’s called a “shave biopsy.” When this is done, the area to be examined is first desensitized with a local anesthetic and then the lesion is removed. This leaves a minor, superficial abrasion that will not require stitches.

Sometimes more tissue is required, in which case a “punch” biopsy may be performed. Again, a local anesthetic will be used to desensitize the area and then a small, round sterile instrument resembling a “cookie cutter” (approximately 3 mm in diameter) is used to remove a small plug of surface tissue. With this technique, tissue samples can be obtained from as far down as the fat layer. The resulting minute wound may be left open to heal on its own or closed with a simple suture.

The most comprehensive form of biopsy is called an “excisional” biopsy, and it is used when there is a high suspicion of melanoma. In this case, the entire lesion is removed along with a small margin of normal skin around the perimeter. Sutures are usually required. A biopsy is sent to our pathology laboratories and our physicians will contact you as soon as the results are obtained.