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, as well as any vitamins or supplements, that 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.
April 15, 2014
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- Skin examinations. SkinCancerNet. http://www.skincarephysicians.com/skincancernet/skin_examinations.html. Accessed Nov. 6, 2013.
- Preventive services for adults. Bloomington, Minn.: Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement. https://www.icsi.org/guidelines__more/catalog_guidelines_and_more/catalog_guidelines/catalog_prevention__screening_guidelines/preventive_services_for_adults. Accessed Nov. 6, 2013.
- Zelboraf (prescribing information). South San Francisco, Calif.: Genentech Inc.; 2013. http://www.zelboraf.com. Accessed Nov. 8, 2013.
- U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for skin cancer: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation statement. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2009;150:188.
- Melanoma. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed Nov. 6, 2013.
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- Gibson LE (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dec. 12, 2013.
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