blog skin cancer diagnosis

Receiving a skin cancer diagnosis can be scary, but rest assured that the skin cancer experts at Feinstein Dermatology are here to help you feel at ease at every step along the way. Knowing what to expect and how to prepare for upcoming appointments can go a long way in helping to ease worry and anxiety surrounding your recent diagnosis. Here, you’ll find a step-by-step guide on what to expect after receiving a skin cancer diagnosis, as well as the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.

1. Your Next Appointment 

If you’ve already had a biopsy and received those results, your dermatologist will be able to explain what those results mean in more detail during your next appointment. Your biopsy report will include the type of precancerous or cancerous cells that were found and, if possible, the stage of that cancer. This means how early or advanced the cancer may be. Staging may be determined by a combination of the information in your biopsy report and the results of a physical examination from your dermatologist.

During this visit, you can expect to receive a physical exam and a full-body skin check if that was not already performed during your last visit. You will also have a chance to ask any questions you might have. A few to consider asking might include:

  • What type of skin cancer do I have?
  • How advanced is the skin cancer?
  • Will I need any other testing?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • Who can help me with insurance or financing questions?

It can be helpful to jot down a list of questions you want to ask at your appointment so you don’t forget to cover anything that might be on your mind.

2. Testing

In some cases, additional testing may be needed to determine how far the cancer may have spread and what the best treatment option may be. These tests can include x-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, MRIs, or PET scans. If it is determined that the cancer has spread beyond your skin, your dermatologist will likely recommend that you see an oncologist to ensure you receive the most effective and comprehensive treatment for your specific case. 

It is important to note, however, that you may not need any additional testing at all. In most cases of basal cell carcinoma, which spreads very slowly, no further testing is needed. Squamous cell carcinoma may require more tests if it is already very large once it is found. Some cases of melanoma, but not all, may also require additional tests.

3. Treatment Options

Once additional test results are ready, if applicable, your dermatologist will discuss treatment options with you and create a personalized skin cancer treatment plan that works best for you. While many factors go into determining the best course of action for each skin cancer case, some of the most common skin cancer treatments include:

  • Electrodessication and curettage (ED&C), which first scrapes away the cancerous cells and then uses controlled electric current to stop bleeding and remove any remaining cancerous cells. 
  • Excision, which removes the entire skin cancer lesion, usually along with some healthy skin.
  • Mohs surgery, which removes several thin layers of skin one at a time, examining each one in a microscope in between the removal of layers. This technique minimizes the amount of healthy tissue that is removed, while ensuring that all cancerous cells are removed.

4. Observation

After completing your skin cancer treatment, your doctor may ask you to come back for observation visits to make sure that the cancer does not come back. The frequency of these appointments will depend on the type and stage of skin cancer that was treated, as well as other risk factors. Melanoma may return or spread even after treatment, so you can expect to schedule several follow-up appointments over the coming months. 

5. Regular Follow-Up Appointments

It is crucial that you maintain regular skin cancer screening appointments with your dermatologist at least once per year, or more frequently if you were diagnosed with melanoma. Additionally, make sure you keep up with performing regular skin exams at home in between visits with your dermatologist. If you were treated for melanoma, ask your doctor how to check your lymph nodes for signs of cancer during your regular at-home exams.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are a few of the most commonly asked questions from patients after having received a skin cancer diagnosis. 

How Quickly Does Skin Cancer Need to Be Treated?

All types of skin cancer should be addressed as early as possible to avoid the growth or spread of cancer to other areas of the body. While most non-melanoma skin cancers tend to grow slowly, melanoma can spread much more rapidly and should therefore be treated as soon as possible. 

Does Skin Cancer Make You Feel Sick?

Most people who are diagnosed with skin cancer feel well, and often, the only symptom is a suspicious-looking mole or spot on their skin. While skin cancer lesions can sometimes bleed or itch, this isn’t always the case. So it is important to regularly check your skin for signs of skin cancer, even if you do not have any noticeable symptoms.

Will I Need Mohs Reconstruction Surgery?

Not all patients who have Mohs surgery to remove skin cancer will need Mohs reconstruction surgery. When Mohs surgery leaves a visible cosmetic defect on the face or other noticeable area of the body, Mohs reconstruction can be an appropriate treatment option. In some cases, Mohs reconstruction surgery is performed directly after Mohs surgery, while in others, it may be scheduled at a later date.

Bottom Line

It is normal to feel a little overwhelmed or anxious after discovering that you have skin cancer. The team of skin cancer experts at Feinstein Dermatology is dedicated to providing you with individualized care at every step along the way to help ease any worries you might have. Our Delray Beach office is equipped with the latest medical equipment and technology, including an on-site CLIA-certified laboratory, to provide the most accurate and precise skin cancer treatments available.

Whether you have just discovered a suspicious mole or have already received a diagnosis and have more questions, our skin cancer experts are happy to help you navigate your next steps. Easily request an appointment online or call our Delray Beach office at 561-498-4407 to schedule your appointment today.