Preparing for your appointmentBy Mayo Clinic staff
If you have a skin wound or lesion that concerns you, make an appointment with your doctor. He or she may recommend that you see a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of skin conditions (dermatologist).
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Write down your medical history, including other conditions for which you've been treated. Be sure to include any radiation therapy you may have received, even years ago.
- Note any personal history of exposure to excessive UV light, including sunlight or tanning beds. For example, tell your doctor if you have worked as an outdoor lifeguard or spent lots of time at the beach.
- Make a list of immediate family members who have had skin cancer, to the best of your ability. Skin cancer in a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or sibling is important history to share with your doctor.
- Make a list of your medications and natural remedies. Include any prescription or over-the-counter medications you're taking, as well as all vitamins, supplements or herbal remedies.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor. Creating your list of questions in advance can help you make the most of your time with your doctor.
- Find a family member or friend who can join you for your appointment. Although skin cancer is usually highly treatable, just hearing the word "cancer" can make it difficult for most people to focus on what the doctor says next. Take someone along who can help take in all the information.
Below are some basic questions to ask your doctor about basal cell carcinoma. If any additional questions occur to you during your visit, don't hesitate to ask.
- Do I have skin cancer? What kind?
- How is this type of skin cancer different from other types?
- Has my cancer spread?
- What treatment approach do you recommend?
- What are the possible side effects of this treatment?
- Will I have a scar after treatment?
- Am I at risk of this condition recurring?
- Am I at risk of other types of skin cancer?
- How often will I need follow-up visits after I finish treatment?
- Are my family members at risk of skin cancer?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over points you want to talk about in-depth. Your doctor may ask:
- When did you first notice this skin growth or lesion?
- Has it grown significantly since you first found it?
- Is the growth or lesion painful?
- Do you have any other growths or lesions that concern you?
- Have you had a previous skin cancer?
- Has anyone in your family had skin cancer? What kind?
- How much exposure to the sun or tanning beds did you have as a child and teenager?
- How much exposure to the sun or tanning beds do you have now?
- Are you currently taking any medications?
- Are you currently or have you previously used herbal remedies?
- Have you ever received radiation therapy for another medical condition?
- Have you ever taken medications that suppress your immune system?
- What other significant medical conditions have you been treated for, including in your childhood?
- Do you or did you smoke? How much?
- Do you now have or have you ever had a job that may have exposed you to pesticides or herbicides?
- Do you now rely or have you ever relied on well water as your primary water source?
- Do you take precautions to stay safe in the sun, such as avoiding midday sun and using sunscreen?
- Do you examine your own skin on a regular basis?
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- Wood GS, et al. Nonmelanoma skin cancers: Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas. In: Abeloff MD, et al. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2008:1253.
- Basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/nmsc.pdf. Accessed Jan. 14, 2011.
- What you need to know about melanoma and other skin cancers. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/skin. Accessed Jan. 14, 2011.
- Basal cell carcinoma. American Academy of Dermatology. http://www.aad.org/public/publications/pamphlets/sun_basal.html. Accessed Jan. 19, 2011.
- Skin cancer prevention (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/prevention/skin/Patient/. Accessed Jan. 14, 2011.
- What are basal and squamous cell skin cancers? American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/SkinCancer-BasalandSquamousCell/DetailedGuide/skin-cancer-basal-and-squamous-cell-what-is-basal-and-squamous-cell. Accessed Jan. 19, 2011.
- ToxFAQx for arsenic. Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry. http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=19&tid=3. Accessed Jan. 19, 2011.