Have you noticed any abnormalities in your skin?

If you have noticed any abnormalities in your skin, please make sure you see your dermatologist.

Your doctor will first examine the abnormal skin area clinically. This means that he/she will look at this area in accordance with special medical criteria. In order to get a better picture, he/she will use a so-called dermatoscope (reflected light microscope). If your doctor suspects during the clinical examination that it is a possible carcinogenic skin change, he/she will arrange for further examinations:

  • Biopsy: this is a medical procedure that involves taking a small sample of skin so it can be examined under a microscope by a pathologist. This procedure gives more information about the lesion and allows the doctor to determine more precisely the type of skin cancer you have and whether there is any chance of it spreading to other parts of your body1.

Besides the Biopsy, there are other diagnostic procedures that can give information in situ about the type of skin cancer, the depth of the lesion and the area.

  • Optical coherence tomography (OCT): this is a microscopic imaging technique, which magnifies the surface of a skin lesion using near-infrared light and provides information about the depth of tumour infiltration (up to 2mm) and the width of the tumour.2
  • Ultrasound: this is a non-invasive imaging technique that relies on the measurement of sound wave reflections from the tissues of the body and produces good-quality image of tissues and structures closer to the skin surface. Used in conjunction with clinical and/or dermoscopic examination of suspected skin cancer, Ultrasound may offer additional diagnostic information compared to other technologies.3

The results of these examinations are the basis for the next step.

References

1. https://www.rcpath.org/discover-pathology/news/fact-sheets/what-is-a-biopsy.html

2. https://dermnetnz.org/topics/optical-coherence-tomography/

3. Dinnes J, Bamber J, Chuchu N, et al. High-frequency ultrasound for diagnosing skin cancer in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018;12(12):CD013188.