Understanding Skin CancerDownload this book (pdf, B)
Where to get your skin checked
In deciding where to go for a skin check, it is important to find out about the services offered and the expertise of the staff. Your GP may be able to advise you.
There are four main points to consider when deciding where to have your skin checked:
1. The qualifications of staff
3. Diagnosis and treatment
4. Information and follow-up provided.
If you think you have a suspicious spot or would like to have your skin checked, your first port of call should be your general practitioner (GP). Your GP knows your full history, can talk to you about risk factors, examine your skin and advise you about checking your own skin, treat some skin cancers and provide other appropriate care. They may check your skin themselves, refer you to a specialist, or recommend a particular skin clinic.
If you would like a second opinion, ask your GP to refer you to a specialist, such as a dermatologist ( a doctor who has completed additional training to specialise in diagnosing and treating skin disease, including skin cancer), a plastic surgeon or a general surgeon.
If you would like a consultation with a specialist, keep the following in mind:
- You should have a referral from a GP.
- Before the appointment, ask about the fees and what proportion of these are covered by Medicare.
- There may be a long waiting list. If there is a spot of particular concern, your referring doctor should organise an early appointment.
- If you live in regional NSW, there may not be a dermatologist based in the local area. However, many regional areas have visiting dermatologists. Your GP should be able to advise you.
Many skin clinics operate in NSW and offer a variety of services and fee arrangements. Skin clinics are usually operated by GPs and some bulk-bill for at least some of their services.
If you decide to make an appointment with a skin clinic, it is important to ask:
- About the qualifications, skills and experience of the person who will examine you, does this person have any extra training in skin examination?
- Whether that person is a member or fellow of any professional association relevant to skin cancer (such as the Australasian College of Dermatologists)
- What costs may be involved, not just for the initial consultation, but for any follow-up treatment you may require.
Many clinics offer the latest digital technology to assist in examining skin spots. It is important to remember that these are just tools that help the person examining your skin to make a diagnosis. The quality of that diagnosis still depends on the experience and skills of that person.
Please note, Cancer Council does not operate or endorse any particular skin clinic, general practitioner or skin specialist.
Some clinics bulk-bill for the initial consultation, while others require upfront payment. When making the appointment, always ask if the clinic bulk-bills and check if other costs might be involved. For example, if the doctor examining your skin believes you have a skin cancer, he or she may want to carry out a biopsy to test the spot or even remove the whole spot and have it sent for testing. These procedures may involve significant extra charges that may not be bulk-billed.
Before you proceed:
- Ask how much each procedure will cost in full and how much is refundable through Medicare.
- Clinics may use technology that involves computer-assisted scanning and store images of your spots for future comparison. Ask if there are additional costs or fees for storing the images and follow-up appoitments.
Information and follow-up
Once you have had your skin checked, the clinic should provide you with information about skin cancer prevention and any follow-up you may need.
Ask the clinic for:
- Information about skin cancer, prevention and sun protection
- Information about checking your own skin
- A record of your diagnosis and treatment to be sent to your GP.