One of the most interesting tools we use in the prevention of and fight against skin cancer in Chapel Hill at our main dermatology clinic is total body photography. This imaging technology is an effective way to monitor patients who are at a high risk for developing skin cancers. We send such patients to a consulting specialist photographer who takes images that we can examine extremely close up to track any suspicious lesions. Let’s take a closer look at the way we use the photographs in the fight against skin cancer:
- To establish a baseline: When we meet a high-risk patient, we recommend he or she sees a photographer who makes a detailed image map of the patient’s body. We can then analyze the images using special software that allows us the option of zooming in on specific areas. These initial baseline images are important so we can track any changes that may appear later on.
- To monitor existing moles and lesions: One of the most important aspects of catching skin cancer early is to monitor changes in existing lesions. If a patient suspects that a mole or lesion may have changed, we can refer back to the original images as a comparison. Any changes in shape, size, or color would be a concern.
- To detect new lesions: For patients at a higher risk of developing skin cancer, it’s critical to not only monitor existing lesions, but to look out for anything new.
Total body photography has many benefits, including reducing unnecessary biopsies. It’s surprising how easily we can forget what has changed on the skin we live in and see every day. Photos help us remember, so we can catch skin cancer earlier and treat it more successfully. It’s also instrumental in reducing anxiety in high-risk patients.