Ask the Advocates: Advice for Seeing the Dermatologist During COVID-19
COVID-19 has certainly changed our lives in many ways. One change is the way we see and interact with healthcare professionals. For those living with skin cancer, dermatologist visits may look a little different these days.
Tips for seeing a dermatologist during COVID-19
Our SkinCancer.net advocates share their experiences and advice.
Devin: Keep regular dermatologist appointments
Don’t overlook the dangers and risks of skin cancer because we are too focused on the dangers associated with COVID. Caught early, skin cancer is often treatable, so it’s extremely important that you regularly see your dermatologist - even during COVID. By taking the proper precautions (facemask, sanitation, and distancing) you can minimize your risk of contracting COVID or any other airborne disease. So please don’t let COVID stop you from seeing your dermatologist especially if you’ve had any experience with skin cancer in the past.
Ronni: Ask about guests ahead of time
If someone usually goes with you to the dermatologist, during COVID, you should check with the office to see if anyone is allowed to come in with you. Before my recent visit, to the Mohs surgery center, I checked with the office to see if my boyfriend was allowed. I had gotten a letter saying that if you were just getting an excision, you didn’t need anyone, but if you were getting Mohs surgery, you could have someone with you. Obviously, they want to limit the number of people who come in. They put him on the list. It turns out, he met me downstairs but being on the list probably enabled him to come upstairs if I needed him. For the previous visit, when I was getting biopsies, I drove myself. It’s 90 miles from my home, so I was glad that he was able to drive me home after the surgery. After the biopsies, it didn’t matter as much.
Judy: Consider telehealth if necessary
My advice, first and foremost, is to be sure to see your dermatologist during COVID if there is something suspicious or worrisome on your skin that hasn’t gone away within several weeks. I realize some doctors’ offices have postponed routine checkups during COVID, but if you have an area of concern and your doctor’s office isn’t open, you may want to see if you are able to either do a telehealth visit with your dermatologist or to take a picture of your area of concern to send to your doctor.
Fortunately, my dermatologist’s office has remained open during the pandemic, and I recently had my second COVID-era six-month checkup. Both times, masks have been mandatory (as they should be). The only main difference in the appointment was that the waiting room was not being utilized; patients went inside to check-in and then returned to their car to await a phone call that it was time for them to come in, if an exam room wasn’t available at the time of check-in. Having a periodic professional exam is important, in addition to self-checks. So if there’s any way possible, I recommend continuing to see your dermatologist.
Renee: Do not skip appointments
My advice for seeing the dermatologist during COVID is to go in person for your annual skin checks, but if you just have a question about another skin condition or about whether you should have a spot examined, contact the office and see if you can schedule a telehealth appointment. When my dermatologist’s office was closed, we did a telehealth appointment for a medication renewal, and she asked if there was anything I wanted to show her on my face or body. I asked how she does that via video and she said she tells patients to take a picture of any suspicious spots and send them to her, so she can enlarge them on her phone.
I recommend contacting your doctor and finding out how it’s best to see them during COVID, for your specific medical issue. But, and I can’t say this enough, do not skip an annual or biannual skin check – definitely ask what precautions your dermatologist’s office is taking, check-in and pay online if possible, wear a mask, use hand sanitizer often, wait in your car if possible (ask them to call you when the doctor is ready), and wash your hands when you get home.
Rachel: Plan ahead for protection and prevention
Don’t bring people with you to your appointment. Aside from caregivers, there is no reason for an adult to need someone with them during their skin exam. My office has been exposed to COVID by someone who was not being seen by the doctor. It’s not necessary and it's safer for everyone if you come to the office alone.
Please wear your mask. As soon as you walk into your exam room do not take your mask off. Talk to the intake nurse with it on and please do not remove it until it is time for the doctor to check your face. Once he or she has checked your face, please put your mask back on while he continues the rest of your skin exam. This protects you and your doctor while you are in such close proximity to each other.
If you are sick, experiencing any symptoms, or living with someone who is experiencing symptoms please reschedule your appointment if it’s not time urgent.
Liz: Try a virtual check-in first
My advice for visiting the dermatologist would be to try for a virtual contact initially, if only for a concerning spot or question. If deemed necessary, then an in-office visit instead or next. That advice is for those dermatologists' offices that are set up with COVID protocols physically in the waiting rooms and throughout all the rooms. That is a must!
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