May 2021 - Skin Cancer Awareness with Carrie Byrd, NP
May is National Skin Cancer Awareness month! But it’s never too late to learn about the ways in which you can protect yourself and your loved ones from the risks of various skin cancers such as melanoma all year long. While wearing sunscreen on a daily basis may seem like the most obvious step you can take to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful UV rays, there are additional steps you might not even be aware of.
Wearing sun protective clothing such as long sleeves, wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses is an important measure you can take to protect the delicate skin on your face, neck and ears, especially if you are going to be outside during peak sunlight hours of 10AM to 3PM. Wearing sunglasses that are UV rated can help protect your eyes from sun damage as well as the skin around your eyes. As UV rays can cause premature aging, this will also help keep fine lines and wrinkles away!
UV rays can penetrate cloud cover and glass so it is important to wear sunscreen on a daily basis. With so many types of sunscreens on the market, how can you know which one will protect you and your family best? Broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher will protect you against both UVA and UVB rays. There is a wealth of information so we sat down with our provider Carrie Byrd, NP to discuss some of the most pressing questions regarding skin cancer and how you can protect yourself.
What is the most commonly asked question from patients who come in to see you regarding a concern about skin cancer?
When patients come in and have concerns about skin cancer, they usually want to know what they are supposed to be looking for at home and how they can identify areas of concern. The ABCDEs of skin cancer are important to know for when you are doing self checks at home.
Early detection is key with skin cancer. How do you stress to your patients the importance of getting a yearly skin check?
I try to explain to my patients that the earlier you catch something abnormal, the smaller it could be. I have seen skin cancers that are 5mm versus 5cm wide because we were able to catch it early on. If the spot in question is something that will need to be removed, the surgery spot will be smaller than if the patient would have waited. I try to explain to my patients that a spot may look small on the surface but actually may be larger because you cannot see the whole area of affected tissue. In addition, Melanoma can spread from skin to other organs so early detection is key!
Do you have a go-to sunscreen that you like to recommend to patients who may have sensitive skin or dislike the feeling of heavier, more greasy sunscreens?
Absolutely! I usually recommend the Cerave AM over-the-counter sunscreen which is a thinner formula. Another favorite of mine is the Elta tinted moisturizer, which I wear daily! For men I recommend the La Roche Posay Anthelios as it is a super lightweight formula. I always remind my patients not to forget about their lips and to protect them with a lip balm that contains SPF.
What can patients expect if they come into the office to have a full body skin check?
After they check in and are brought to an exam room, I like to ask about which spots they are concerned about. I also like to stress to patients before the exam that they will not be required to dress completely down as that is sometimes that makes patients nervous. They are free to wear shorts or a tank top just as long as we can examine their areas of concern.
If we find anything concerning, we will do any biopsy or testing that day and we should receive the results within 1-2 weeks. If the spot is benign, we get permission to send a message to the patient through the patient portal. If we find anything that needs further attention or perhaps surgery, we will call the patient and explain the next steps for treatment. We like for the patient to come back into the office to discuss the results so they know what to expect.
And how do you ease a patient’s nerves and overall concern during the visit?
If the patient will need surgery, I like to explain the surgery process and explain how the spot will look before and after so they know what to expect. I like to let them know that if the surgery leaves a scar that we offer scar treatments to help lessen the appearance. Being able to see how large the spot is and what it will look like post-surgery gives the patient an idea of what to expect so they can have peace of mind that we are giving them all the information available.
I also like to give the patients pamphlets and reading material to take home with them and I stress the difference between the types of cancer, especially if they are to be treated for a Basal Cell Carcinoma or Squamous Cell Carcinoma versus Melanoma.
Tanning beds have been linked to various skin cancers and yet many young people still use them. Do you recommend a tanning substitute to younger patients who come to see you and if so, what products do you recommend?
I love to tell patients about spray tanning. I get spray tans so I always have recommendations to give. I also use tinted moisturizers and recommend them to patients so they can have the tanned look without the damage to their skin.
If you are concerned about skin cancer or if you would like more information about scheduling a full body skin check with one of our providers, please call a Skin Solutions location nearest you to schedule your consultation. Our patients are part of the SSD Family and we love giving back in any way that we can! Do you have a skin cancer story that you would like to share with us? We would love to hear from you! Send your story or photos to: firstname.lastname@example.org