Taking selfies of your moles could be picture perfect!
"...contorting my body to view a mole on the bottom of my foot can prove quite difficult"
Scott B. Ahrndt, MPA-C
Advanced Dermatology Skin and Surgery Center
Physician Assistant - Certified
During a skin exam, patients often ask, “How do I know if I have a skin cancer? What should I be looking for?” Patients don’t want to come in unnecessarily and yet they do not want to wait too long and risk getting skin cancer. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a brilliant blue spot showed up on your skin sending the message: “See your Dermatologist,” or even a green diamond for “Come in right away.”
The truth is that you will never see a brilliant blue spot or a green diamond pop up on your skin. There are over 50 different presentations of skin cancer with the following characteristics: red, grey, white, tan, brown, dark brown, black, flat, raised itch/non-itch, bleed/non-bleed, and pain/no pain. You can have a strange looking mole from birth or one that looks completely normal. Our bodies produce new moles and even your old moles can change over time and be perfectly fine.
The 2017 American Academy of Dermatology skin cancer detection reference is available to all.
Here is the good news! I am confident many patients do a good job detecting changes in their skin and make appropriate appointments based on their judgment. The AAD has great educational tools available on their website, but we still need to consider how hard it is to view your moles in hard to view places. Viewing the bottom of your feet, shoulder blades, or even looking behind your ears and scalp are all important places to check if you are serious about “Mole Patrol.”
I have been practicing in dermatology since the late ‘90’s. Dermatology surgery has always been rewarding and enjoyable to me, but now I find that I revel in the excitement of preventing a patient from having skin cancer surgery. Early detection is the key. Early in my career I created a term called “Dermography.” You won’t find this word in the dictionary, so let me tell you what I mean. When you come in with a mole you are concerned about and I exam it and determine it does not need to be biopsied, then you and I work together and monitor it for up to one to two years. During this visit, my staff will photograph the mole and embed the picture into your personal dermatology electronic medical record. If you have your cell phone with you, my staff will also take a picture with your cell phone. I then recommend you go to the appointment calendar in your cell phone and create a “Mole Patrol” date so it will beep at you every two months reminding you to examine your moles. You now have an OBJECTIVE tool to assess any significant changes to the mole of concern. If at any time you see the mole has changed from your last visit, call immediately for an appointment.
Mole Patrol also requires a “buddy” system. You can patrol the front and your “buddy” can patrol the blind spots. Blind spots include your scalp, ears, neck, and the entire back-side. If you don’t have a “buddy” to monitor your moles, Advanced Dermatology has a team of 13 experts who are happy to be on your Mole Patrol Team. “Prevent, Detect, Live.” - AAD.org
Scott Ahrndt, MPA-C