Cancer Screening

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Skin Cancer Screening and Diagnosis

Skin cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed forms of cancer in the United States, and it affects people of all ages, ethnicity, and skin tone. The majority of skin cancers are relatively benign-acting basal cell and squamous cancers that can be cured with surgery. However, skin cancers starting as moles (melanoma) can be highly dangerous, even terminal. Monthly self-exams are recommended to detect any changes in moles or new growths on the skin. It is important for people with an excessive number of moles, those with a history of prior skin cancers, or anyone with a history of multiple blistering sun burns as a child to see a dermatologist regularly for a total body skin exam.

When you do a self-exam, look for:

  • Dry, scaly spots.
  • Flesh-colored, pearl-like bumps or pink-colored spots.
  • Firm, red-colored bumps, scaly patches, or ulcer-like growths that heal and reopen. 
  • Changes in moles or dark spots (ABCDE rule).
    • Asymmetry: The shape of one half of the mole is different from the other half.
    • Borders: The outside edges of the mole are ragged.
    • Color: The mole has different shades of colors such as brown, black, tan, red, or blue; some can be white or have no color changes.
    • Diameter: The size of the mole has changed.
    • Elevation: The mole or growth is raised or has an uneven surface.

To conduct a self-exam of the skin:

  • Examine your entire body, turning and raising your arms.
  • Closely examine your forearms, the back of your upper arms, and your palms.
  • Look at the back of your legs and tops of your feet, including the spaces between your toes. Examine the soles of your feet.
  • Using a hand mirror, check your face, neck, scalp, back, and buttocks.

Screening appointments and locations

If you notice any changes in your skin, a mole, a new skin growth, or if a mole or spot begins to bleed or ooze fluid, see a health care provider. UMMC Dermatologists have expertise in evaluating and diagnosing skin disorders.  

  • To schedule an appointment with a UMMC dermatologist, call (601) 815-3374.

Our locations include:

Diagnostic testing

After a physical exam by a doctor, additional testing may be required to determine if any abnormal moles, birthmarks, and pigmented areas are cancerous or if skin cancer has spread. These tests may include:  


Doctors may suggest a punch biopsy, in which a small instrument is used to take a small core of skin. They can then review the skin sample under a microscope to see if it contains cancerous cells. 

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Blood tests

Doctors may take a blood sample to test for lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), an enzyme. 

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Bone scan

If other tests suggest cancer may have spread to the bones, doctors may recommend a bone scan to confirm. Doctors inject a small amount of radioactive material that travels through the bloodstream and collects in damaged areas of the bones. A scanner can show where it collects. If a bone scan indicates a hot spot, doctors may recommend a biopsy to confirm cancer.

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Chest X-rays

X-rays produce images of the body which may show if a tumor is present. If diagnosed with melanoma, doctors may recommend this test to see if it has spread to the lungs. 

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Computed tomography (CT)

A CT scan, sometimes called a CAT scan, provides more detail about what is going on inside the body. During the scan, an X-ray beam moves in a circle around the body and sends digital information to a computer that interprets the data and displays it in two-dimensional form on a monitor. Sometimes a CT scan will be used to help doctors biopsy a specific area, called a CT-guided biopsy

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A dermatoscope, a magnifying lens and light, is held near the skin. Sometimes doctors take a digital picture of the spot. 

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Mohs surgery

UMMC Dermatologists also perform Mohs surgery, a highly effective surgical treatment for removing skin cancer. This outpatient procedure allows doctors to spare as much healthy tissue as possible surrounding the cancerous tissue. It also promotes high cure rates, and the best cosmetic results of any skin cancer removal method.  

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Positron emission tomography (PET)

In this procedure, a small amount of radioactive glucose (sugar) is injected into a vein, and a scanner makes detailed digital pictures of the area of the body where the glucose is used. Because cancer cells often use more glucose than normal cells, the pictures can be used to find clusters of cancer cells in the body. 

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This single scan combines the ability of a CT scan to show tissue that looks abnormal and a PET scan to show tissue that acts abnormally. The UMMC Cancer Center and Research Institute radiology department’s PET/CT scanner offers the highest level of detailed image quality currently available. The ability to look at CT and PET images together helps doctors more precisely identify the location of abnormal, possibly malignant (cancerous), tissue in the body.

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