Skin lesion assessment
Examination of a selected spot/skin lesion of concern, using a dermoscope and high magnification photography.

Also known as

mole check, spot check, skin lesion examination, mole examination

Conditions treated

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How it’s performed

A skin cancer doctor examines the spot of concern using a dermoscope, which magnifies and lights the spot with a polarised light. This enables a clear view of the spot allowing the doctor to detect small signs of skin cancer.

Preparation

The skin should be clean with no make-up, fake tam or nail polish. If the spot of concern is on your face and covered with make-up, we will ask you to remove it prior to your examination. Avoid scratching or pickling at the spot of concern.

Side effects and complications

Follow-up

If the spot looks like skin cancer, the doctor may perform a simple biopsy procedure at the time of your examination. Alternatively you may need to return later for a complete excision procedure, usually with stitches. If the spot looks mildly abnormal but without evidence of skin cancer, the doctor may ask you to return to the clinic in 3 months for a follow-up examination and photograph of the spot.

Aftercare

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Contraindications

Warnings

Sometimes a skin cancer can be missed at the first examination, if it is very early and the dermoscopic signs of cancer are not clear. If a spot grows or changes after being examined by a doctor, you should have it re-examined.

Pregnancy

It's safe to undergo this procedure while you are pregnant.

News/blog articles

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Web links

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Manufacturer's brochure

Download PDF file
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If you are concerned about a single spot or mole — new, changing, or odd-looking — you can have it checked quickly and easily at Spot Check Clinic without a full body examination. We take your concerns seriously and if possible, we will check your mole on the same day.

Who should have a single mole check?

Many skin cancers are detected by a doctor or nurse without the patient knowing that they are there. This can only happen during a whole body skin cancer screening examination. If you have skin cancer risk factors we recommend a whole body skin check. Risk factors include white skin, age 40 or over, history of skin cancer or solar keratoses, family history of melanoma, using a solarium/tanning bed and certain medical issues such as a poor immune system.

If you don't have any risk factors, you could consider a single mole/spot check if:

  • You have noticed a new spot that looks different from the other spots on your body. The spot might be bigger, a different colour or different shape. It might be more raised than other spots, or it might feel different. In general, if it breaks the pattern of the other spots it might be a skin cancer. This is called the ugly duckling rule. Most skin cancers can be identified with the ugly duckling description, so if you notice a spot or lump that seems different from the others, you should have it checked.
  • You have noticed a change in an existing spot, especially if it is growing. Other suspicious changes might include a change in shape, of the development of new structures or colours in the spot. Any of these changes might mean that the spot is a skin cancer, or sometimes that a new skin cancer has developed within a pre-existing mole.
  • You have a sore that hasn't healed after 6-8 weeks.

If you have risk factors and have your skin checked regularly for skin cancers, you might consider a single mole/spot check in between full body examinations, if you've noticed a spot or lump with the features described above.

What to expect from a single mole check

Before examining the spot, your doctor will ask questions about the spot of concern, your general medical history and skin cancer risk factors. This information is useful for figuring out how likely it is that your spot is a skin cancer, and if you are at risk of having skin cancers on other parts of your body. It also helps the doctor choose the most appropriate tests and treatments for the spot, if necessary.

Dermoscope examination

The doctor will closely examine the spot or mole of concern with a dermoscope — a medical instrument which lights up and magnifies your skin. The light is polarised so it can more easily penetrate the top layer of skin, allowing the doctor to see features which would not otherwise be visible.

Doctor is examining a mole on the patient's arm using a dermoscope.
A dermoscope being used to examine a mole on a patient's arm.

Two images of a mole on the temple. Image on left is a regular photo. Image on right is detailed dermoscope photograph.
Mole on temple. Image on left is a regular photograph. Image on right is a high magnification dermoscopic photograph.

The doctor looks for specific "clues" to skin cancer. These include certain types of lines, colours, blood vessels and other structures that characteristically appear in skin cancers.

Digital AI analysis of your spot

Your doctor might also use an artificial intelligence system to analyse your spot. The system compares your spot with a database of many others. It retrieves the images that most closely resemble your spot and presents statistics of these images, e.g. how many of these images are skin cancers. This system is not foolproof and tends to over-diagnose skin cancers. But it can be a useful back-up tool and it provides educational information to help you understand why your spot is likely or unlikely to be a skin cancer.

Dermengine software provides possible diagnosis by comparing mole with its database of results
DermEngine software provides possible diagnosis by comparing mole with its database of images and diagnoses.

Follow-up

In most cases, the doctor or a nurse will take a dermoscopic photograph of the spot so that it can be examined more closely. The doctor will discuss your spot and show you its features and digital analysis. Together, you will decide on the best form of follow-up. This could be:

  • a biopsy of part of the spot (normally performed straight away)
  • a complete excision with stitches (performed later), or
  • keeping the spot under observation with a repeat examination and photograph some time later.

Next steps

After your spot check, you should understand the most likely diagnosis of your spot of concern and the best follow-up plan. You will have access to any photographs taken of your spot, as well as written advice from your doctor about the most likely diagnosis, links to further information resources and information about any recommended treatments and follow-up.

References

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