This week, we are reminded of the importance of awareness and education regarding skin cancer.
A patient called in today to thank Dr. Kennea for saving his life. Sounds dramatic, right?! This patient had been in the clinic for something entirely unrelated, and during that consult Dr. Kennea spotted a highly suspicious mole on his neck. It concerned her enough to make an immediate referral to our dermatologist. Thankfully, this referral was timely and the mole safely removed. The patient had been altogether unaware of this mole, the changes it would have gone through over time, and was a little shaken by the experience. Had it not been identified when it was, a year later would have been too late.
So is this a rare occurrence? Sadly not. It might surprise you that this happens every week. We see many cases that cause enough concern to warrant referral to a dermatologist or surgeon. Our staff are medical professionals, or are experienced in Derme care and supported by medical professionals.
This is one of the reasons that every patient at Whistler Medical Aesthetics must undertake an in-depth consultation BEFORE any treatment is considered. When we are looking at ANY treatments on the skin, i.e. laser, BBL / IPL and even skincare, a part of that consultation includes a highly scientific examination of the skin. Because laser treatments change the appearance of skin, and while mostly that is a good thing, there are occasions where that can be very, very bad.
Advanced Photographic Skin Analysis - Visia
We use our Visia photographic system for all facial skin treatments. Visia is an intelligent camera system that takes a complete cross-section of the face. IntelliFlash®, cross-polarized and UV lighting are used to record and measure surface and subsurface skin conditions. UV photography provides the most comprehensive data set available for sun damage assessment and analysis, including UV fluorescence imaging to reveal porphyrins (See pic below for an example of what one Visia session produces)
Our Vectra system combines studio quality lighting with smart automation. The IntelliStudio facilitates image capture to ensure repeatable facial and body photography with both non-polarized and cross-polarized lighting. And, the motorized, programmable lift controls height consistency, which combined with Canfield’s MatchPose® image capture and management tool, ensures perfectly registered before and after images.can intelligently photograph the entire body to microscopic detail.
Our staff are Medical Doctors, Registered Nurses, and trained skin professionals with vast experience in dermatological issues. We work with a team of consultant dermatologists in Vancouver and can turn around an urgent consult within 24-48 hours.
So…why do we do this and what does all of this mean to you?
Identifying Skin Cancer
Laser and light emitting treatments such as BBL / IPL are designed to change the appearance of our skin. Oftentimes this is to rejuvenate, increase collagen, remove fine lines & wrinkles and so on. Sometimes we are working on acne scarring or facial scars. The common denominator is that lasers change the appearance of the skin. This is a good thing, until it’s not.
Finding melanoma at an early stage is crucial; early detection can vastly increase your chances for cure. Look for anything new, changing or unusual on both sun-exposed and sun-protected areas of the body.
Melanomas commonly appear on women’s legs, and the number one place they develop on men is the trunk. However, keep in mind that melanomas can arise anywhere on the skin, even in areas where the sun doesn’t shine.
Most moles, brown spots and growths on the skin are harmless – but not always. The ABCDEs and the Ugly Duckling sign can help you detect melanoma.
The ABCDEs of melanoma
The first five letters of the alphabet are a guide to help you recognize the warning signs of melanoma.
A is for Asymmetry. Most melanomas are asymmetrical. If you draw a line through the middle of the lesion, the two halves don’t match, so it looks different from a round to oval and symmetrical common mole.
B is for Border. Melanoma borders tend to be uneven and may have scalloped or notched edges, while common moles tend to have smoother, more even borders.
C is for Color. Multiple colours are a warning sign. While benign moles are usually a single shade of brown, a melanoma may have different brown, tan, or black shades. As it grows, the colours red, white or blue may also appear.
D is for Diameter or Dark. While it’s ideal for detecting a melanoma when it is small, it’s a warning sign if a lesion is the size of a pencil eraser (about 6 mm, or ¼ inch in diameter) or larger. Some experts say it is also essential to look for any lesion, no matter what size, darker than others. Rare, amelanotic melanomas are colourless.
E is for Evolving. Any change in size, shape, colour or elevation of a spot on your skin, or any new symptom in it, such as bleeding, itching or crusting, may be a warning sign of melanoma.
If you notice these warning signs, or anything NEW, CHANGING or UNUSUAL on your skin, see a dermatologist promptly.
Please note: Since not all melanomas have the same appearance, these photos serve as a general reference for what melanoma can look like. If you see anything NEW, CHANGING or UNUSUAL on your skin, go get checked by a dermatologist.
Look out for an UGLY DUCKLING
The Ugly Duckling is another KEY warning sign of melanoma. This recognition strategy is based on the concept that most normal moles on your body resemble one another, while melanomas stand out like ugly ducklings. This highlights the importance of not just checking for irregularities, but also comparing any suspicious spot to surrounding moles to determine whether it looks different from its neighbors. These ugly duckling lesions or outlier lesions can be larger, smaller, lighter or darker, compared to surrounding moles. Also, isolated lesions without any surrounding moles for comparison are considered ugly ducklings.
What you can be doing
Check yourself: No matter your risk, examine your skin head-to-toe once a month to identify potential skin cancers early. Take note of existing moles or lesions that grow or change. Learn how to check your skin here.
When in doubt, check it out. Because melanoma can be so dangerous once it advances, follow your instincts and visit your doctor if you see a spot that just doesn’t seem right.
Keep in mind that while important, monthly self-exams are not enough. See your dermatologist at least once a year for a professional skin exam.
If you’re considering a laser or light emitting treatment, credential your provider. Ask them if they have checked your skin and what their qualifications are to do so.
If you’ve had a melanoma, follow up regularly with your doctor once treatment is complete. Stick to the schedule your doctor recommends so that you will find any recurrence as early as possible.