As a surgeon who often treats and cares for patients whose ailments of the skin have gone too long without medical attention, I’d like to talk about the importance of seeing a doctor right away if you find abnormalities on the skin.
I hope people can be aware that it is not only important to identify that you have a problem – it is important not to ignore it. Most of the people we see have ignored it for months, and by the time they get here, they already have a more advanced stage. Here’s a simple checklist to follow for when your skin needs medical attention:
- Come in if you see any changes in a mole, an enlarged lesion, or anything that changes.
- You should examine yourself every month. A full skin exam needs to be performed, from head to toe, using a mirror to see the back. If you cannot see the back, get somebody to check for you.
- Any changes of any kind – such as bleeding, pain, a change in size – if you see anything at all like that, look for attention by us, or by a dermatologist.
Unfortunately, if you wait too long and it has gone to the lymph nodes, it is already at a different stage, and you may need chemotherapy or more radical surgery. Early detection is very important.
Do not be afraid to come in. Usually by the time you see a change, it is still early. You could simply need a resection of the skin area and be cured if you don’t waste time.
One of the extremely important things about sunscreen is that it should be reapplied several times. The guidelines say every two hours — especially if you are sweating or swimming.
Between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., try to avoid sun exposure if it is possible. A great resource that gives you the UV index by zip code is http://www.epa.gov/sunwise/uvindex.html — you can even download applications for smartphones.
BIO: Manual Molina, MD is a surgical oncology specialist at the Lakeland Regional Cancer Center. In addition to Dr. Molina’s experience with skin cancers like melanoma, he serves patients with malignant and benign hepato-biliary and pancreatic diseases, sarcoma, esophageal cancer, gastric cancer, and other digestive tract cancers.
story by MANUEL MOLINA, MD