Your guide to getting a skin cancer check

Did you know one Australian dies from melanoma every five hours? As over 1.1 million skin cancers are treated every year nation-wide, it is essential for Australians to be up to date with regular full-body skin checks. But who needs one, how can you book one, and what questions should you ask? Let’s look at everything you need to know about skin examinations.

When do I need a skin cancer check?

All Australian adults need a full-body skin cancer check once per year. If your doctor tells you that you are at high risk of skin cancer, you may need a skin check more often and you may need total body photography for closer monitoring of your entire skin surface.

Get to know your skin and what is normal for you. If you notice any new spots or any changes in the colour, size or shape of existing moles, see your doctor as soon as possible. Doctors with advanced training in skin cancer medicine can check individual moles of concern or perform a full-body skin screening, even if you are not yet due for your regular skin exam.

Early detection is crucial.

Most skin cancers can be successfully treated if found early, which may save your life.

How do I know if I’m at high risk of skin cancer?

Two in three Australians develop skin cancer before the age of 70. You are at increased risk if you:

  • Work outdoors
  • Have fair skin
  • Have light-coloured hair or eyes
  • Have ever been severely sunburnt
  • Have ever used a tanning bed
  • Have a family history of melanoma
  • Have previously been diagnosed with skin cancer
  • Are over 40
  • Are male
  • Have a weakened immune system
  • Have many moles on your skin
  • Spend a lot of time outside

It’s important to be aware of your personal skin cancer risk factors and family medical history before your skin check appointment, as your doctor will ask for this information to better assess your risk.

Learn more about determining your skin cancer risk.

Where should I book a skin cancer check?

Comprehensive skin cancer examinations are conducted by doctors with advanced skin cancer training at dedicated skin cancer clinics. The doctors who practice at our clinics are general practitioners with advanced training in skin cancer medicine who have all completed university-certified skin cancer training and have many years’ experience in the detection and surgical removal of skin cancers.

A skin cancer clinic is dedicated exclusively to detecting and treating skin cancers. Such clinics are set up specifically for that function, featuring operating theatres and state-of-the-art technology geared towards finding and/or monitoring all types of skin cancer. Plus, you will have the opportunity to receive advice on skin cancer prevention and early detection during your skin check at a skin cancer clinic.

Conversely, dermatologists are general skin specialists, meaning they are skilled and experienced in dealing with a range of skin conditions including skin cancer. Because there are only 550 dermatologists in Australia, wait lists extend up to one year (and even longer in rural areas) and this can be an expensive option for skin cancer checks and treatment. You will require a referral from your GP to see a dermatology specialist.

If you see your regular family GP for a skin check, you may find they only have time to perform a single spot check and sometimes lack the training to diagnose skin cancer in general practice. You are also likely to be referred elsewhere if you require treatment.

How do I schedule a skin cancer check?

If you have never visited us before, you can schedule your first full-body skin cancer check by directly phoning us or booking online via our website. You do not need a referral and you do not need to first see a GP.

If you have visited us before, you should receive a reminder to book your next skin check when it is due. However, you are always welcome to book at any time via phone or online. If you notice a new or changing spot and you are not yet due for your routine appointment, please contact us straight away.

Please note that comprehensive full-body skin examinations are not bulk-billed; you should check our website or phone us to be aware of fees before your appointment.

What happens during a skin check?

We have created a short video and FAQs on what to expect during your actual appointment, what you need to bring, and how you can prepare for a skin examination: Learn more about what to expect at your skin check appointment.

What questions should I ask at my skin check?

During your appointment with a doctor with advanced training in skin cancer medicine, you might like to take the opportunity to ask some important questions, such as:

  • What is the likelihood that I will develop skin cancer?
  • Are my family members at risk of developing skin cancer?
  • This particular mole has been bothering me. Can you pay extra attention to it?
  • How often should I come in for a skin check?
  • Do I require total body photography for enhanced monitoring?
  • What are some sun protection tips?
  • Can you tell me how best to prevent skin cancer or reduce my risk of developing the disease?

What will happen if a skin cancer is found?

If the doctor finds a lesion of concern, the facilities at our skin cancer clinics are in place to perform a biopsy, treatment and aftercare all under the one roof, so you will get fast and effective care.

The doctor will tell you straight away if you have any moles or spots which require a biopsy, which means that a small sample of skin is removed for further testing. After it has been removed, the sample is sent to a pathology laboratory for diagnosis. Receiving the test results can take up to several days. The results and treatment options will be discussed with you at length at your follow-up appointment.

Have another question not answered here? Check out our FAQs for more information.

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