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Skin Cancer Screening: What to Expect During a Full-Body Skin Exam

Skin cancer is an umbrella term for several different types of cancer, including melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers like basal cell carcinoma. Skin cancer is on the rise — a 77% increase was reported from 1994 to 2014. In Maryland alone, 23% of all cancer diagnoses are melanoma.

Thankfully, skin cancer screenings are painless exams that can catch the earliest warning signs of cancer. Dermatologic surgeon Ali Hendi, MD, and our team of compassionate and skilled providers offer comprehensive skin cancer care from skin cancer surveillance to skin cancer treatments.

If you’ve never had a full-body skin exam, you might wonder what it entails and how you should prepare for it. In this article, we cover everything you need to know about your skin cancer screening.

What to expect during your exam

When you arrive for your skin cancer screening, you need to change into a medical gown. Your exam consists of a few different parts, including a review of your family history and current symptoms, a physical examination, biopsies (if needed), and a review of your next steps.

Your family history

Your family history is important when it comes to skin cancer. Your own personal history of melanoma or a family history of skin cancer can increase your risk of developing skin cancer.

During this time, you can also address any skin cancer concerns you have. Bleeding or itchy lesions are worth noting, as these can be signs of skin cancer.

Your exam

Your provider then examines any of the places that skin cancer may occur on your skin, including:

During this visual examination, we look for any suspicious lesions or moles that are asymmetrical, have irregular borders, are multicolored, are wider than a pencil eraser, or that have evolved. Sometimes this mole check is referred to as the ABC’s — these irregularities can be signs of melanoma.

Shiny purple patches or bleeding sores can be signs of other types of skin cancer. A visual examination is designed to look for signs of any skin cancer, not just melanoma.

A dermatoscope — a type of magnifying glass — reveals details of each lesion that the naked eye can’t see. If the physical exam or the dermatoscope show any concerning spots, the mole may be biopsied to confirm if it’s benign.


If Dr. Hendi discovers any concerning moles or lesions, he takes a biopsy of the tissue at the site and has it tested. Depending on the results of your biopsy, you may need another procedure such as a cryotherapy, laser surgery, or mohs micrographic surgery to remove more of the tissue. 

Your next steps

After your exam, you can discuss any other skin needs you have or inquiries about our other services. Depending on your history and health needs, you might require more frequent skin cancer screenings, and we can schedule future appointments for you. 

How to prepare for a skin cancer screening

Preparing for a skin cancer screening is easy. You just have to make sure all of your skin is visible. For example, wearing your hair loose makes it easier to examine the skin of your scalp. You might consider removing your nail polish on your fingers and toes so that your nail bed can be examined. Skin cancer can affect your nails, too.

To schedule a full-body skin exam at our Chevy Chase, Maryland, office, call 301-259-5710. You can also request an appointment online.

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