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What is a Melanoma Screening?

A cancer screening is when a doctor looks for signs of cancer before any symptoms have appeared. This helps to diagnose cancer when it’s in an early stage and treat it before it has spread. Scientists have been studying the causes of cancer and identifying which people are more likely to get certain types of cancer to help doctors understand which patients they should screen for cancer and how often.

Why Do I Need a Melanoma Screening?

Melanoma screening is vitally important, as it can help detect cancer early. Melanoma is more serious than other forms of skin cancer and is more likely to metastasize, or spread to other areas of the body. However, when found early before it has spread, melanoma can be treated with greater success.

What Happens During a Melanoma Screening?

The first step of melanoma screening is to perform thorough monthly self-examinations. After a bath or a shower, use a full-length mirror and a hand-held mirror to look over your entire body from head to toe, including less obvious areas, like your scalp, fingernails, genitals and the spaces in between your toes. Get familiar with your body, noticing birthmarks, moles, blemishes and other marks, and how they usually appear and feel. Each month during your self-screening, look for anything new, such as:

  • A new mole that doesn’t look like your other moles
  • A new skin-colored bump that’s firm to the touch
  • A new flaky patch of skin that’s red or darker in color (the skin patch may be slightly raised)
  • A sore that isn’t healing
  • A change in the color, size, shape or texture of a mole

The second part of melanoma screening is a yearly professional examination by a dermatologist or skin cancer expert. Moffitt Cancer Center has established a mobile skin cancer screening program, the Mole Patrol®, which has traveled to venues throughout Clearwater, St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida, offering a melanoma test, education and sunscreen samples – free of charge – to the public since 1995.

Moffitt Cancer Center's Approach to Melanoma Screening

Moffitt’s Mole Patrol® is comprised of medical physicians and mid-level practitioners who all specialize in skin cancer and/or dermatology. The team also includes registered nurses and support staff. Our screening checks for both melanoma and other forms of skin cancer, and is conducted in an area that allows for privacy, when needed. If suspicious moles or lesions are detected, patients receive follow-up recommendations that they can take to their primary care physicians, participating affiliate institutions or Moffitt Cancer Center.

For more information about melanoma and the Mole Patrol®, please call us at 1-888-663-3488, or complete a new patient registration form online. No referral is necessary to visit Moffitt Cancer Center.