Start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner if you notice any skin changes that concern you. Depending on your situation and the outcome of any tests, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in skin diseases (dermatologist) or to a doctor who specializes in cancer treatment (oncologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well-prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready and know what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet.
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements you're taking.
- Take a family member or friend along. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember all the information provided during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important, in case time runs out. For melanoma, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- Do I have melanoma?
- How large is my melanoma?
- How deep is my melanoma?
- Has my melanoma spread beyond the area of skin where it was first discovered?
- What additional tests do I need?
- What are my treatment options?
- Can any treatment cure my melanoma?
- What are the potential side effects of each treatment option?
- Is there one treatment you feel is best for me?
- How long can I take to decide on a treatment option?
- Should I see a specialist? What will that cost, and will my insurance cover it?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?
- What will determine whether I should plan for a follow-up visit?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask other questions during your appointment.
June 16, 2015
- What you need to know about melanoma and other skin cancers. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/publications/patient-education/wyntk-skin-cancer. Accessed April 28, 2015.
- Niederhuber JE, et al., eds. Melanoma. In: Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2014. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed April 28, 2015.
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- Detect skin cancer. American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/spot-skin-cancer/learn-about-skin-cancer/detect-skin-cancer. Accessed April 28, 2015.
- U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Final recommendation statement: Skin cancer screening. http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/RecommendationStatementFinal/skin-cancer-screening. Accessed April 28, 2015.
- Melanoma. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed April 28, 2015.
- Reed KB, et al. Increasing incidence of melanoma among young adults: An epidemiological study in Olmsted County, Minnesota. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2012;87:328.