Do you have skin cancer?

by | Jun 27, 2019

Australians have the highest rates of skin cancer in the world and just 30 minutes with your doctor could save your life.

Most dangerous moles and spots can be successfully treated if found early and reduce your chances of developing skin cancer.

A skin check is a comprehensive skin history and examination which is done in our rooms at Stratford Medical Centre by Dr Thuy Au, who is a GP with an interest in skin cancer.

A skin check involves taking a skin history relevant to the patient, to assess the extent of risk/exposure to UV radiation and the risk of solar related cancers.

The examination is a head to toe examination, down to the underwear, closely examining the skin surface.

People at higher risk of skin cancer are those who have red hair, previously had a skin cancer and/or have a family history of melanoma, have a large number of moles on their skin, have a skin type that is sensitive to ultraviolet (UV) radiation and burns easily, have a history of severe/blistering sunburns especially in childhood, spend lots of time outdoors, unprotected, during their lifetime, actively tan or use solariums or sunlamps or work outdoors.

You have a medium risk of developing skin cancers and should have your skin checked every 2 to 5 years if you have one of the following: blue eyes, highly sensitive skin that always burns and never tans and are aged over 25, if you have sensitive skin that burns easily and you’re aged over 45, you have a family history of non-melanoma skin cancer, past history of solar keratosis or multiple episodes of sunburn.

If the doctor is concerned about a skin lesion, they may suggest a biopsy, to clarify the diagnosis.

A biopsy is a surgical procedure during which the doctor will take an appropriate amount of tissue from the lesion of concern and send the sample to a pathologist to diagnose the lesion.

Generally pigmented lesions (coloured spots), will be biopsied in their entirety whereas non pigmented skin lesion may be sampled partially.

The results of the pathology report will guide the doctor’s treatment. Occasionally the doctor may elect to treat a lesion if they are confident of the diagnosis. This may include freezing/cauterising a lesion, cutting it out or offering topical treatments such as creams.

Biopsies will generally be done at a later scheduled time and tend to be booked in with the Practice Nurse also in the procedure room within the practice.

When getting your skin checked, we ask that you wear comfortable clothing as the doctor will ask to examine you down to your underwear. A sheet or towel will be provided for you to preserve your comfort and dignity and a chaperone (usually a nurse) is always offered to patients.

We ask that you avoid makeup or nail polish, as the skin examination involves the face and skin under the nails.

Not all general practitioners can offer specialist skin checks, but Dr Thuy is not only a fellow of Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (Specialist GP) but is also has a Certificate in Sexual and Reproductive Health, Professional Certificate in Skin Cancer Medicine and Primary Skin Cancer Therapeutics.

She particularly has an interest in family planning (including Mirena insertion), and Skin Cancer medicine including excisions.