Preparing for your appointmentBy Mayo Clinic staff
If you have a skin wound or lesion that concerns you, make an appointment with your doctor. You may be referred to a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of skin conditions (dermatologist).
If you've already had skin cancer, you have an increased risk of a second cancer. Talk with your dermatologist about how often you should have a skin examination to look for signs of another skin cancer.
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.
- Make a list of your medications and natural remedies. Include any prescription or over-the-counter medications, vitamins, supplements, or herbal remedies that you're taking.
- 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 to focus on what the doctor says next. Take someone along who can help you remember all the information.
Below are some basic questions to ask your doctor about squamous 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?
- Is this type of cancer likely to spread?
- 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?
- What can I do to prevent skin cancer?
- How often will I need follow-up visits after I finish treatment?
- Are there 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 spend more time on. 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?
- How much exposure to the sun or tanning beds did you have as a child?
- 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 or have you ever had a job that may have exposed you to pesticides or herbicides?
- Do you now 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?
- Habif TP. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 5th ed. Edinburgh, U.K.; New York, N.Y.: Mosby Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?about=true&eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-7234-3541-9..X0001-6--TOP&isbn=978-0-7234-3541-9&uniqId=230100505-57. Accessed Feb. 12, 2013.
- Goldsmith LA, et al., eds. Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 8th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=740. Accessed Feb. 12, 2013.
- Skin cancer treatment (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. http://cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/skin/Patient. Accessed Feb. 12, 2013.
- Skin cancer prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/prevention.htm. Accessed Feb. 19, 2013.
- Gibson LE (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Feb. 21, 2013.