How Long for a Dermatologist Appointment?

I recently read an article in Women’s Health about the difficulty patients experience trying to get an appointment with a dermatologist, even patients who have found a suspicious growth/spot. The article scared me, both for myself and for others. The article described long wait times in areas of the country with a dearth of dermatologists, but also in large cities.

Melanoma deaths with fewer derms

35 days was cited as the average wait time in a midsize city to get an appointment with a dermatologist for a skin exam to detect a suspected melanoma. The average for large cities is 32 days. For some women in rural areas and medium size towns the closest dermatologist can be 100 miles away. The article cites the scary statistic that areas with fewer dermatologists have more deaths from melanoma.1

6 weeks for a dermatologist appointment

Reading the article reminded me of a call I received last summer from a friend who had found a suspicious spot on her leg. She called me to describe this spot that she had never seen before, and said it “didn’t look good,” that it was “irregularly shaped and itchy”. I told her to call her dermatologist (she has one) and make an appointment. She called me back a few minutes later, very upset, and said they couldn’t fit her in until about 6 weeks later. She was worried that if this growth was cancerous/malignant, it would get worse while she waited for her appointment. But she felt she had no choice but to wait. Making an appointment with a new dermatologist would take even longer. My friend ended up being fine. When she finally saw the doctor, she was told it was nothing to worry about.

The waiting game is a common one

I told this story of waiting for an appointment to another friend today, a friend who has had two basal cell carcinomas. She told me that she had to wait for an appointment to see a local dermatologist after she found a new suspicious growth, but the wait was more like a few weeks, not 2 months. I, too, had to wait for an appointment to see my dermatologist when I noticed a spot that ended up being my second basal cell carcinoma. I had to wait about 4 weeks for an appointment, and then I waited two weeks for them to call me back with the results of my biopsy.

Dermatologist referral and other tips

So my question to everyone who reads this is, what do you do, what can you do to get an appointment with a dermatologist when you find a suspicious spot on your skin? Here’s my advice:

…If you don’t have a dermatologist, ask your PCP or any doctor you see for a recommendation or referral. Or ask friends, family, coworkers, anyone who has had a spot removed, anyone at all whom you trust.

…Ask the doctor’s office/receptionist if you can be put on a waiting list. If they say there’s no waiting list, tell them that you are going to call every day to ask if there is a cancellation. Be nice, be polite, but call.

…If your dermatologist doesn’t have any openings, ask to see another derm in the practice.

And, if you haven’t found a suspicious spot, but you want to play it safe, consider making an appointment for a full body check, for two reasons. One, so that you will be checked and will know that you’re hopefully okay or that if something is found, it will be taken care of. And two, so that you have a dermatologist to see yearly and if and when you ever find anything on your skin that you want to have checked.

Does anyone have any other advice? What do you do and what do you recommend doing to get an appointment with a dermatologist?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The SkinCancer.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.
View References
  1. Dermatology Deserts. Women’s Health. September 2017. https://www.womenshealthmag.com/dermatology-deserts

Comments

View Comments (3)
  • juliacarolina
    2 months ago

    Try directderm.com. You can access a certified board of dermatologists from Harvard and Stanford just by submitting the photos of your skin issues through the DirectDerm online platform. Instead of waiting 6-weeks to see a dermatologist, you will get your diagnosis in 48 hours. Giving you instant peace of mind.

  • Renee Feldman moderator author
    2 months ago

    Wow! I never heard of that platform. Did you use it? And if yes, how did you feel? Thanks for telling us about that site. I’m not sure it would replace yearly full body exams, but it sounds like a good option if you have a skin issue you want a doctor to look at.

  • Nina M moderator
    2 months ago

    Hi juliacarolina, this reminds me of one of our articles on tele-dermatology. It sounds promising, although as Renee said, some may not feel comfortable without an in-person check. If you do end up using this resource, I hope you’ll let us know how it goes. Wishing you well with your prevention and treatment! – Nina, SkinCancer.net Team

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