Your appointment with Martin takes 15 minutes. First he'll talk to you about your risk of skin cancer, asking where you were born, any blistering sunburns, family history of skin cancer and sunscreen use. Next, he will examine every inch of your skin thoroughly, including scalp, armpits, groin, buttocks and feet. There's no need to be embarrassed – he's discreet and professional and uses a towel to preserve your dignity.
Martin performs your skin examination using a microscope called a dermoscope (shown below). Research shows that experts diagnose melanomas with only 60% accuracy with the naked eye. Using a dermoscope improves accuracy to over 90%. This is because the dermoscope enables the doctor to look beneath the top layer of the skin into the deep layer to reveal tell-tale signs of early melanoma and other skin cancers. Improved accuracy means less chance of missing a skin cancer and fewer benign lesions removed and sent to the lab unnecessarily, which saves money, pain, scars – and lives. Martin has completed years of dermoscopic training to interpret the special signs of early cancer.
If Martin identifies any skin lesions of concern he will advise either a skin biopsy or complete surgical removal depending on the situation. This is usually booked about a week later and takes place at the same clinic under local anaesthetic. Martin performs all biopsies and surgical removals and is very gentle so the pain is no worse than a blood test.
If you have a skin lesion that is not entirely normal and there is a low level of suspicion for melanoma, he will take a digital dermoscopic photograph of the lesion and advise you to come back three months later so he can rephotograph it and look for any changes. If there are no changes the lesion is over 99% likely to be benign. If there are changes he can surgically remove it.
Martin’s professionalism and thoroughness mean most people find skin checks to be an easy, reassuring experience.