Anticipating Questions at the Dermatologist's Office: Theirs and Yours
Last updated: November 2023
If you see a dermatologist regularly, you know the importance of the back-and-forth with your doctor.
Talking with your dermatologist
Because you are there to talk about changes in your skin, you have a lot of ground to cover as the skin is the largest of your organs. There is a certain kind of dance we do with our dermatologists that involves questions and answers. Frank discussions and thorough answers are an important part of your regular visits.
Following my initial skin cancer diagnosis (there have been many) and the first few visits with my dermatologist, I learned there was a series of questions my doctor would always ask. At first, I didn’t see the significance in him asking me questions because I thought I was there for him to make all the discoveries. I soon realized that my own attentiveness to my skin was just as important as scheduling my regular visits.
What your dermatologist might ask you
Whether it's your first visit or your regular check-up, you may hear:
- How long has it been since your last visit?
- Have you noticed any changes in your skin?
- Do you have any new spots that are concerning you?
- How long have you had this mole?
- Are you wearing sunscreen daily?
- Have you been in the sun lately?
- Have you ever had a sunburn?
- How long has this dry spot been here?
- Have you tried anything on it? Lotions, over-the-counter creams?
- Does this spot itch?
- Have you noticed any spots bleeding?
- Do you have a family history of skin cancer?
- Do you or have you ever used a tanning bed?
- Do you work outdoors?
- Have you ever been diagnosed with skin cancer?
What should you ask the dermatologist about?
As your dermatologist continues the examination, you may have questions of your own. Don’t hesitate to ask. There are no silly questions, and your doctor will appreciate the opportunity to educate you about skincare and sun safety.
Questions you may want to ask:
- How much sunscreen should use?
- Which SPF do you recommend?
- Do I need to wear sunscreen on cloudy days?
- How can I protect my lips?
- How often should I examine my own skin?
- Should I call you immediately when I see a change in a mole?
- Is a spot that bleeds a sign I should call you?
- If I have had skin cancer once, am I at a higher risk for developing more?
- Do I need to treat dry itchy spots over the counter before calling you?
- Is this spot something I need to worry about?
Don't rush and be honest
Given the fact that you want a thorough and honest experience, always anticipate this type of interaction with your dermatologist. Skin exams should never be rushed, and you should not leave the office feeling like your head is spinning from a quick once-over.
Answer your doctor’s questions as completely as you can. Go into the visit with a prepared list of questions and spots of concern in mind to show them. Ask whatever crosses your mind while you are there. Put very simply, if your dermatologist is not asking all the right questions, consider finding another doctor to care for your skin’s needs.
What questions/answers have you exchanged with your dermatologist? Share with us in the comment section.
Do you sunscreen in the fall?