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I Saw a Physician Assistant for a Skin Cancer Full Body Exam Scan, and I Will Do It Again

I Saw a Physician Assistant for a Skin Cancer Full Body Exam Scan, and I Will Do It Again

I choose my doctors carefully. I usually ask my gynecologist for a referral when I need a specialist. She, along with my cardiologist and internist, are all affiliated with the same large teaching hospital in NYC. I used to see a dermatologist who was also at that hospital, but he doesn’t take insurance and the bills got to be too high. So I asked local friends to recommend a dermatologist, but few liked their doctor enough to recommend them.

Trying to find a new dermatologist

When I did find a friend who liked her dermatologist, I started to see that doctor, and I liked her too. She did my full body check, biopsied suspicious moles, two of which were basal cell carcinomas, and was attentive. Then she left the practice. When it was time for my next skin cancer full body check, they offered me an appointment with another doctor or with a PA. I, of course, picked the doctor. But then I needed to see someone to diagnose an acute issue, which turned out to be eczema, and the only person who had time available when I could get there was the PA.

I found her to be knowledgeable, informative, patient, and thorough. She took her time examining me, and took time to talk to me and answer my questions. She told me that she does body checks, and also mentioned that she often has more availability than the doctors in the practice, meaning I could reach her and see her more easily/more quickly.

Hestiant to see a physician assistant for a skin exam

That all sounded positive and beneficial for a regular appointment to treat a skin issue, but I wasn’t convinced to see her for a full body check for skin cancer. Many questions danced through my mind: would she “catch” every possible skin cancer, would she know what to biopsy and what was just a mole, cyst, age spot? Did she have enough experience and was she trained well enough to examine me for skin cancer? My basic question was, did I trust her?

Then I remembered that my two basal cells were found by an aesthetician, not by my dermatologist. My dermatologist did the biopsies, but an aesthetician is the person who noticed the two spots on my face that looked “different” to her. I decided to give the PA a try, but I was still nervous. I called the office and asked to book an appointment with the PA for my biyearly skin check. I could hear the fear/trepidation in my voice and I’m sure the receptionist heard it too. As we discussed possible dates for my appointment, she said, “You know, J found my basal cell.” I immediately felt better.

Feeling satisifed and safe with a physician assistant skin check

I am happy to say the appointment went very well. I don’t know why, but I trusted her as she scanned my body. I did feel vulnerable as she scanned my face, neck, arms, legs, and back, as well as less visible areas such as my scalp, between my toes, and the soles of my feet. She took her time, did not seem rushed at all, answered all my questions, looked at every spot I asked her to check, and seemed thorough. I felt comfortable and confident as she examined every part of my body. She did remove two spots, and said she didn’t think they were cancerous but wanted to biopsy them just to be sure.

I felt confident in her ability to find anything suspicious and send it for a biopsy. Even with my dermatologist, I had often wondered if she missed something. I felt the same level of trust in the PA’s ability to find anything that could be cancerous as I did with my doctor. When I left the office, I booked my next skin cancer full body exam with her. And the two spots she removed did not turn out to be skin cancer!

Please comment and let us know if you see a PA or NP for a fully body check, and tell me about the experience in a few words. Have you been satisfied, and why or why not? Thank you!

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.

Comments

  • rswanson
    5 months ago

    When we moved, I wanted to get connected with a dermatology practice that focused more on the treatment of skin cancer than aesthetics. When I found a well-respected one, the PA was the only one taking new patients. I too was hesitant, but I have been to her twice for full skin checks and feel very confident in her care.

  • Renee Feldman moderator author
    5 months ago

    I’m so glad you had a good experience with a PA!

  • Nina M moderator
    5 months ago

    I’m glad to hear another positive story like Renee’s, @rswanson, as we just heard from another member who had an experience where the surgeon himself was quite condescending (here: https://skincancer.net/life-with-skin-cancer/wear-scars-pride/). I wonder if it comes down to the individual and the practice more than their position, derm vs PA. Thanks for commenting! – Nina, SkinCancer.net Team

  • Renee Feldman moderator author
    5 months ago

    Nina, I’ve been thinking the same as I read all the comments on this article. I’m thinking the patient’s experience depends on the individual PA, derm or derm surgeon. I’ve been reading about good experiences with each specialist. And I’ve had great experiences with both a dermatologist and a PA, as have others. So as with everything, the experience probably differs depending on the personality, attitude, and expertise of the specialist.

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