Body Checks

Body Checks

If you haven’t had a full-body skin check recently, or ever, we won’t guilt-trip you about it… But, you may be aware that your skin is the largest organ on your body and, like all your other “body parts”‘ should be regularly examined by a specialist. This is especially true if you have moles of various colors and sizes, raised bumps, painful sores, or lesions that don’t go away.

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Dr. Summers is always very meticulous and caring when treating me. He answers all of my questions and ensures the best result. He is always available for your concerns.

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A full body check at the Maryland Plastic Surgery Center & PURE MedSpa can be easily scheduled with our dermatology specialist, and your insurance will most likely cover the costs of your exam.

Here’s what you should expect…

First, we will ask if you or your family members have a history of skin cancer? Next we will want to know your history of exposure to ultraviolet light…for example, have you ever gone indoor tanning? Have you ever had a blistering sunburn? Do you wear sunscreen every day? Finally, we will want to know if you have seen any changes in any moles or anything new on your skin. Each of these factors could increase the likelihood of skin cancer.

We will examine you from your scalp to the face, ears, lips, inside the mouth, neck, chest, trunk, buttocks, arms, armpits, legs, nails, palms, and soles of your feet. One part of your body will be examined at a time — you can leave their underwear on as it can be moved around as needed. If you have a specific are of concern, such as the genitals, please let us know.

We are looking for an lesions that could be a sign of cancer.  For example, non-melanoma cancers such as basal cell or squamous cell can show up as pink bumps, pearly bumps, rough-looking bumps, or open sores that won’t heal. Keratoses, or pre-cancerous lesions, frequently show up as tiny rough areas on the face (especially the ears and nose), the backs of the hands, the forearms and other areas. Melanoma-related lesions frequently show up as moles that are asymmetric or have unusual or uneven color, jagged borders, or a large size (wider than the diameter of a pencil eraser). A dark streak under a nail or inside the mouth could also be melanoma. Plus, we will want to carefully examine any mole or lesion has recently changed or that stands out from everything else around it.

Do you have a lot of moles? These benign brown spots are entirely normal, can be raised or flat, and are made of a collection of melanocytes (the pigment-producing cells) within the skin. Some of us are genetically predisposed to make them by the dozen, but sun exposure can also trigger new moles. However, since the majority of melanoma arise in existing moles, we will pay special attention to them. And, if you have 50 or more moles on your body, research shows that you are at an elevated risk for melanoma. In this case, we may do “mole mapping”.

What’s mole mapping? 

Mole mapping is a painless, noninvasive method that we use to monitor your skin and help detect melanoma. Typically, we will take digital photos of your skin. Then, during your body check, we will look for any suspicious moles that should be monitored more closely.  If we see something of concern, we will take a microscopic photograph of the most atypical-looking moles and then “mapped” these to the larger photos. The images can be reviewed for changes during your next skin check—usually 6 to 12 months later. This process is usually recommended for people who are considered high risk, but it can help avoid needless skin biopsies. And, it can help detect a new melanoma that might otherwise go unnoticed in a sea of surrounding moles.

In some cases, we will recommend a biopsy.   This enables us to determine exactly what type of skin lesion you have by looking at the skin under the microscope. A simple biopsy typically takes about five minutes. We inject a bit of lidocaine to numb the skin and then take a small sample. Occasionally, a stitch or two will be used to help the biopsy site heal. Daily application of petroleum jelly and a bandage can help prevent or minimize any scar.

When we are done, we will review your use of sun screen and other strategies to minimize your risk of skin cancer.

Frequently Asked Questions About Body Checks:

Click on a question below to see the answer.

Q: Why is seeing a dermatologist for annual skin screenings so important?

A: An early skin cancer diagnosis can be the difference between life and death. Early-stage skin cancers are almost always curable; those found later are harder to treat.

Q: Will I have to undress completely? What does a full-body exam entail?

A: You will fully undress but wear a gown. Ask a nurse or assistant to be present if you’re uncomfortable undressing with just your doctor in the room. Sometimes my patients leave socks on, or have their hair in an up-do where I can’t access their scalp. But you can develop skin cancer anywhere you have skin—between toes, behind your ears, on your buttocks, groin, or genitalia. Women should not wear makeup or nail polish to the appointment. Wear your hair loose so that your doctor can access your scalp. Your visit should take 15 to 20 minutes. The doctor will examine each part of your skin, and may use a special magnifying glass with a light—called a dermatoscope—to examine certain marks or lesions.

Q: What questions will be asked?

A: The doctor will want to know if you or any close family members have a history of skin cancer, which would increase your risk of developing the disease. You might also be asked if you’ve ever used tanning beds and how frequently, as well as how regularly you use sunscreen and other sun protection. You might be asked what medications you take, since some increase sun sensitivity and sunburn risk, or suppress the immune system, predisposing you to skin cancer. The more honest you are, the more you’ll get out of your exam.

Q: What happens if the doctor sees something out for the ordinary? Will he automatically do a biopsy?

A: When you come for your exam, be prepared for the possibility of a biopsy that day. It’s a quick, simple procedure. We use local anesthetic and take a small tissue sample, which is then examined under a microscope. The purpose is to diagnose the condition, not treat it, so once the biopsy site heals up, if the biopsy revealed skin cancer, the remainder of the growth will be removed. If any atypical cells are found, they will be removed if deemed necessary, or the doctor might photograph them and have you come back weeks or months later to see if they have grown or changed in any way.