How Often Should I Have my Skin Checked?

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer.  Each year there are more skin cancers diagnosed than breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer and lung cancer combined. Yet the average person does not know when or if to see a doctor for a skin cancer screening.

As it turns out, there isn’t a lot of data to support routine skin screenings in people with no history of skin cancer.  This has led to some confusion regarding how often to screen, and who should do it. There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.  Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas grow very slowly, and rarely spread to other parts of the body.  Thus they are usually curable regardless of when they are diagnoses.  Melanoma, however, is the leading cause of mortality from skin cancer.  And earlier diagnosis leads to better outcomes.  So some type of screening is important.

So what should you do?

Check your skin monthly to look for any changes. You will need a full-length mirror and a hand mirror to check your entire body.  This includes your scalp, your ears, and your hands and feet.

You are looking for:

New moles or growths, or change in existing moles or growths.  Some concerning signs are:

  • Bleeding
  • Crusting
  • Itching
  • Pain
  • A spot that just won’t heal
  • A mole or spot that looks different from your other moles

You should also be familiar with the ABCDs of melanoma:

  • Asymmetry: if you draw a line through the mole, the two halves will not match.
  • Border: the borders are uneven.  They may appear scalloped or notched.
  • Color: moles should be all one color.  A variety of colors in a single mole is abnormal.
  • Diameter: moles should be smaller than the head of a pencil eraser (5mm).

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The average person does not need to see a Dermatologist or Plastic Surgeon regularly to have his or her skin examined, but you may want to have a skin examination done once so your doctor can point out any areas to keep an eye on.  This is especially important if you have a family history of melanoma or if you have multiple abnormal moles. If you do have a history of skin cancer, I recommend having an annual skin examination by a doctor.  This could be your Primary Care doctor, a Dermatologist, or a Plastic Surgeon.

Do you have a question about skin cancer?  We would love to hear from you!

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Disclaimer: This webpage is for general information only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical illness, or give any specific medical advice. Because medical knowlege is constantly evolving, I cannot guarantee the accuracy or timeliness of any information in this blog.

Too Young for a Face Lift?

People often tell me that they have thought about having a particular procedure, but they are either “too young” or “too old” to have it done.  Face lifts and neck lifts (platysmaplasty) are two procedures that commonly fall into this trap.  But when it comes to cosmetic surgery, there is no right age. But if your age isn’t a factor, what does matter?  If you are considering having a face lift, the two most important questions to ask are:

  1. Will a facelift give you the improvement you are looking for?
  2. Are you medically healthy enough to have the operation safely?

A facelift improves laxity along the jawline, tightening the area that commonly becomes “jowly” as we age (see the circled area in the photo below).  Adding a neck lift, or plastysmaplasty, tightens sagging skin under the chin (refer to the area indicated by the arrows).

Original photo from shutterstock.com

Original photo from shutterstock.com

If you have laxity along the jawline, a facelift will improve that.  This laxity does tend to worsen with age, but may also be seen in younger individuals.  In fact, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgery statistics from 2012 (the most recent year available), ⅓ of all face lifts were done in the 40-54 age group.  So clearly younger patients can benefit from a face lift. In respect to being medically healthy enough for surgery, your Plastic Surgeon should do a full evaluation of all your past medical problems.  A history of smoking, high blood pressure, or diabetes can all increase the risks associated with having a face lift.  But barring any serious health problems, there is no specific cut off age for having a face lift done.

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Disclaimer: This webpage is for general information only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical illness, or give any specific medical advice. Because medical knowlege is constantly evolving, I cannot guarantee the accuracy or timeliness of any information in this blog.

Does Scar Massage Actually Work?

Performing surgery while minimizing or hiding the scar is a central theme of Plastic Surgery.  Caring for a scar correctly after surgery can make a significant impact on the scar’s final appearance, and scar massage is often included in this care.  Healing incisions produce collagen for the first 4-6 weeks, after which the collagen starts remodeling and organizing.  This is why scars initially raise and thicken, then flatten out over time.  Massaging the scar can help this process along.

photo credit: emedicine.com

photo credit: emedicine.com

Scar massage involves applying pressure to the scar, similar to a soft tissue massage.  Several studies have shown that massaging scars can decrease pain and itching, help dark or red scars fade in color, and flatten raised scars.  Scar massage can be started as soon as the incision is healed, but will also improve older scars.  You can do scar massage yourself at home, or you can see a physical therapist or massage therapist for treatments.    If this is something you would like to try yourself wait until the incision is fully healed: usually 2-3 weeks.  Then firmly rub the scar in a circular motion.  You should use enough pressure so that it is a little uncomfortable, but not actually painful.  Applying lotion will help prevent friction during the massage.  I recommend trying to massage a scar at least 5 minutes, 5 times per day, although it may take longer for a very large scar.

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Disclaimer: This webpage is for general information only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical illness, or give any specific medical advice. Because medical knowlege is constantly evolving, I cannot guarantee the accuracy or timeliness of any information in this blog.

Arm Lift or Liposuction?

The upper arm is a common problem area: excess skin and fat over the posterior portion of the arm tend to become more noticeable with aging.   Weight loss can also create excess skin over this area.  The solution depends on the problem: is there excess skin, excess fat under the skin, or a combination of both?

 

shutterstock.com

shutterstock.com

  • For excess skin, a brachioplasty (arm lift) is the best solution.  For more information, check out my previous blog post on brachioplasty or look at the American Society of Plastic Surgery‘s website on the procedure.
  • For mostly excess fat with minimal extra skin, liposuction may be all that is needed.  This is performed through small incisions near the elbow and in the axilla (armpit).  Afterward you will need to wear a compression garment for several weeks to decrease swelling and help your skin retract.
  • For a combination of both loose skin and excess fat, a staged approached works best.  Skin retracts back to varying degrees after liposuction.  So when there is already a small amount of excess skin, I usually recommend liposuction first, followed by excision of excess skin (brachioplasty) several months later after skin has had time to retract.  Taking this two-step approach may help limit the length of the incision needed to remove the excess skin.

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Disclaimer: This webpage is for general information only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical illness, or give any specific medical advice. Because medical knowlege is constantly evolving, I cannot guarantee the accuracy or timeliness of any information in this blog.

What is a Dermasweep?

DermaSweep is actually a type of microdermabrasion.  Traditional microdermabrasion uses a spray of microcrystals to remove the outermost layer of dry, dead skin cells.  It is usually done on the face, but can be done on other parts of the body, and the treatments make skin look brighter and feel smoother.  After a series of several treatments, microdermabrasion can even make fine lines appear smoother and skin tone appear more even.  Instead of microcrystals, DermaSweep uses a special brush tip to exfoliate the skin (see image below).

shutterstock_177584390

This exfoliation is combined with gentle suction to help sweep away the outer layer of dead skin cells and to unclog pores.  After the exfoliation stage, different solutions can be applied using this same tip; these may include salicylic acid to improve acne, hydroquinone to address brown spots, or growth factors to improve fine lines and wrinkles.  A DermaSweep treatment takes about 15 minutes, and there is no downtime.  You may have some mild redness that lasts for a half hour afterwards, but you can apply makeup right away.  You should also wear sunscreen when out in the sun for the next few days (and ideally all of the time!)

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Disclaimer: This webpage is for general information only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical illness, or give any specific medical advice. Because medical knowlege is constantly evolving, I cannot guarantee the accuracy or timeliness of any information in this blog.