What to Expect at the Dermatologist
You have done your homework (Good for you!). You selected a Board-Certified Dermatologist with good references and experience in dealing with skin cancer. You made your appointment (a huge step) and you are waiting (and waiting) to see the doctor (proud of you). Here is what to expect based on my experience with dermatologists across the country.
Often dermatologists will bring in a second person in the room. It often is someone in training. Guys should be aware that your doctor may be female and her assistant may be as well. The doctor will most likely not be wearing gloves and will touch you. Much of the physician’s work involves actual touch of the skin to feel for bumps, abrasions, etc. Don’t be alarmed. This is to be expected. You will most likely be inspected from head to toe and this may involve uncovering places where the sun doesn’t shine. Skin cancer can show up anywhere and it is the doctor’s job to find it. Be prepared!
You may hear terms being used like lesion, nevus, dysplastic, etc. If you do not understand something, ask. You will most likely be asked if something has changed or if there is a particular reason why you are coming to the doctor now. Prepare for your visit ahead of time by examining your skin and noting everything that should be looked at. This is where another person (spouse, friend) would be helpful as it is often difficult to get a good look at every part of yourself. Be sure to note sores that don’t seem to heal or that seem to always itch.
The doctor will be writing everything down (or should be). This is not a case for alarm-- it is most likely for reference for future checks. For this reason, it is important to have regular checkups with the same physician if possible. Changes in moles can be signs of malignancy, so baseline measurements are commonly taken. Once again, if you have a question about what is being notated, ask. This is your exam, your body, and your health. The more you know and understand, the better. Ignorance is not bliss, being informed is.
If the doctor wants to do an in-office procedure, make sure that it is explained fully with any follow up. Sometimes there may be a place on your skin that the dermatologist will either want to biopsy or freeze (cryotherapy). This will leave a mark on your skin. So, if you are a supermodel and have a photoshoot the next day, be aware (they can do amazing things with airbrushing). Most of these procedures are preventative and have little side effects except to bring you peace of mind.
Make sure to ask any questions at the end of the visit. Follow all recommendations and make sure to set up another appointment based on those recommendations. Going to a good dermatologist can save your life and is not a heavy lift. It is doable and after doing it, make sure to tell others that it was not so difficult so as to encourage them to do the same.
How well have your skin cancer diagnoses been explained to you?