Skin Cancer Screening

What is Skin Cancer Screening?

Skin cancer is by far one of  the most common forms of cancer. Compared to other types of cancer, skin cancer is diagnosed unusually early. This is because it is mostly in visible places on your skin. It means that there is no national screening programme. Therefore, you should be aware of the symptoms of skin cancer to try and spot it early if necessary.

Dermatologists now offer a mole mapping skin cancer screening service that uses the latest technology to map out all moles on all of your body’s skin. It also produces and records high-res images of individual moles and assesses each mole to give it a cancer risk analysis score. Having mole mapping either each year or if any worrying visible changes to your skin are observed, allows your mole images to be compared. The computer can highlight those moles that are the same, which are new, and which are changing.

If skin cancer is suspected, a skin biopsy can accurately confirm a skin cancer diagnosis.

What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer is when abnormal skin cells grow out of control. Sun damage is the cause of most skin cancers. There are two main types of skin cancer. It is important to know the type of cancer you have so that you understand what to expect and your treatment options.

  • Melanoma – is the less common skin cancer but it is more dangerous. It is more likely to grow and spread than other skin cancers. Melanoma skin cancer starts in melanocyte skin cells that are found in the deeper layers of your epidermis (outer skin). Melanocytes produce melanin when your skin is exposed to the sun. Melanin is a brown pigment that makes your skin look darker. By using skin cancer prevention techniques, you can reduce your chance of getting melanoma skin cancer.
  • Non-melanoma – are the more frequently occurring skin cancers but rarely spread and are usually treatable. Non-melanoma skin cancer is a group of cancers that slowly develop in the upper layers of your skin. They are most likely to develop in skin parts that are exposed to the sun such as your head and neck. The main types of non-melanoma skin cancer are basal cell cancer (BSC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). There are some other rare types.

Symptoms of skin cancer

Symptoms for all types of skin cancer include a sore or area of skin that:

  • doesn’t heal within four weeks
  • looks unusual
  • hurts, itches, bleeds, crusts or scabs for more than four weeks

Melanoma symptoms

A new mole appearing or a gradual change in an existing mole such as shape, size or colour are the most common signs of melanoma. These moles can be anywhere on your body but are uncommon in areas protected from the sun, such as your scalp and buttocks. They are most frequently found on a man’s back or a woman’s legs.

Most often, melanomas are irregular in shape and have more than one colour. A melanoma mole may be bigger than benign moles, itchy or bleed.

Non-melanoma symptoms

Typically, the first sign of non-melanoma is a red and firm lump that may turn into ulcers or a discoloured, flat and scaly patch on your skin. These persist over a few weeks and progress slowly over months or sometimes years. Non-melanoma cancer often develops on sun-exposed skin, including your face, ears, hands, shoulders, upper chest and back.

You should visit your GP if you notice any possible skin cancer symptoms.

What is skin cancer screening and how long does it take?

There is no national screening programme for skin cancer. This is because skin cancer often develops in skin areas that are visible and exposed to the sun and are usually spotted by the patient.

It is therefore important to be aware of skin cancer symptoms. You should see your GP if you have any skin cancer symptoms or you are worried about a new or existing mole, lump, ulcer or patch of skin. They will refer you to a skin specialist if they’re unsure or suspect you have skin cancer.

A skin biopsy is a more accurate way to confirm the presence or absence of skin cancer. Performed under local anaesthetic a skin biopsy removes a small sample of your skin or part or all of the suspect mole. The sample is sent to a laboratory to check if it is cancerous.

The skin biopsy takes about 15 minutes to perform and results are usually back within two to three weeks. The biopsy results should tell your doctor what type of skin cancer you have and whether there is any chance of it spreading to other parts of your body.

If melanoma skin cancer is confirmed, you’ll usually have a wider area of skin removed to make absolutely sure that there are no cancerous cells are left behind in your skin.

If your doctor is concerned that your cancer has spread into other organs including your lymph nodes, bones or your blood, you will have further tests.

When is a skin cancer screen required and how often?

As there is no national skin cancer screening programme, it is important for you to see your GP or a skin specialist if you have any symptoms.

Checking your moles can be difficult if you have lots or if they are in hard to see areas such as your back and shoulders. Mole mapping can reliably check all of your moles for peace of mind.

It is advised that you have mole mapping each year or if you notice any changes to your skin. These new images can then be compared to the previous images and any changes identified

You can see a skin cancer doctor and request a skin cancer screening test at any age if you have cancer concerns.

How to Get Enough Vitamin D During Winter

Vitamin D is an interesting nutrient. It is fat soluble and present only in a few foods, including dairy products, oily fish and red meat. However, unlike many other nutrients, we can also make our own Vitamin D, through direct sunlight on our skin. Most people can meet their Vitamin D requirements through eating a healthy diet and spending time outdoors in spring and summer. If we are not vigilant, it is possible to suffer from Vitamin D deficiency.

Consequences of Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D is vital for healthy bones, muscles and teeth and it regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in our bodies. It is also thought to help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. It is known to be necessary for healthy cell growth and a robust immune system. With Vitamin D deficiency there is a risk of developing bone conditions such as rickets and osteomalacia, which manifest as bone deformation. Osteoporosis is another bone condition that can develop due to Vitamin D deficiency.

There are other health problems that have been attributed to Vitamin D deficiency including:

  • Tiredness
  • Low mood
  • Impaired wound healing
  • Hair loss
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Cognitive impairment

So how can you avoid Vitamin D Deficiency in Winter?

You can build up your stocks of Vitamin D during the summer by getting outdoors and letting the sun do its magic. Please however take the usual precautions when out in the sun during the summer months in Portugal.  If, for whatever reason you are not able to do this, you will need to look at your diet to avoid developing Vitamin D deficiency. Recommended daily intakes for Vitamin D vary from person to person, depending on age and the presence of other health conditions. Toxicity from too much Vitamin D is rare.

Include foods high in Vitamin D in your diet

  • Oily fish for example mackerel and salmon
  • Fish liver oils
  • Liver (although it is an acquired taste!)
  • Red meat
  • Dairy products such as milk, egg, cheese
  • Cereals and other foods that are fortified with Vitamin D

Consider taking Vitamin D Supplements

There are groups of people who may benefit from taking Vitamin D supplements: these include people who are housebound or remain covered up when outside. People with dark skin may not get enough Vitamin D from sunlight alone. Other people who risk Vitamin D deficiency include pregnant and breast-feeding women and young children. Strict vegans or people with milk allergies may also be at risk of developing Vitamin D deficiency. Some people are unable to absorb vitamin D from their food: those at risk include people suffering from intestinal disorders such as Chron’s disease. Vitamin D supplements are widely available and may be purchased at supermarkets and pharmacies.

How do you know if you are Vitamin D Deficient?

A simple blood test will show how much Vitamin D is if your body. If you are concerned that you are at risk of Vitamin D deficiency, a trip to your doctor should help set your mind at ease.

Summer health update

As the Portuguese weather is notoriously sunny, it’s no surprise that you want to spend as much time outdoors as possible, and make the most of it!

And there’s a lot to be said for doing just that. Enjoying the sun has many proven health benefits – from boosting mental health to increasing essential vitamin D levels. But as the age-old adage goes, ‘everything in moderation’.

Whilst we don’t want to put a dampener on your fun in the sun, it is important to be aware of certain risks. That’s why we have  have put together this useful checklist of summer health risk factors…

The summer heat causes us to sweat to stay cool. However, this means our bodies are constantly losing fluids throughout the day which can lead to dehydration if this fluid is not replaced sufficiently. Children and older people are more susceptible to dehydration, the symptoms of which include:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Less frequent urination (and urine that is darker in colour)
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion

Mild dehydration can be treated at home safely by increasing your fluid intake. Oral rehydration sachets, available at your local pharmacy, can also help to replace lost sugars, salt, and minerals.

Heat exhaustion
Working, playing, or simply just relaxing in the heat can often leave you feeling a little more tired than usual. Sometimes, all that is needed is a siesta to recharge the batteries. Heat exhaustion, however, is more serious. Symptoms include:

  • Thirstiness
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Excessive sweating
  • Cramps
  • A high temperature of 38°C or above

The key thing is to cool down before the symptoms progress any further. Do this by moving to a shady area, or indoors. Drink plenty of water and lie down with your feet slightly elevated. It also helps to spritz yourself with cold water or to hold an ice pack on your skin.

Heat stroke
Heat stroke can result from prolonged exposure to high temperatures, causing the body to overheat, and it is extremely serious. Symptoms include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Lack of sweating despite the heat
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shallow breathing
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness

If you suspect someone is suffering from heat stroke, seek medical help  immediately. If left untreated, it can lead to serious complications such as damage the brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles, and can even lead to death.

Too much exposure to the sun’s UV light can cause sunburn, the symptoms of which include:

  • Red coloured skin
  • Painful skin
  • Flaking, dry skin – usually appearing a few days after the skin has been sunburnt

To treat, move indoors and cool the affected area with a cold, wet towel. Apply after sun, drink plenty of fluids, and keep the skin fully covered when out in the sun until the area has healed completely. If you suffer from blisters, tight and painful skin or a heat rash please seek medical attention.

Remember, prolonged sun exposure and repeat episodes of sunburn can cause irreversible damage to the skin and can lead to skin cancer.

Hay fever
Hay fever is an allergy caused by pollen which causes the mucous membranes of the eyes and nose to become inflamed. Typical symptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Runny or blocked nose
  • Itchy, red, and watery eyes
  • Headache
  • Feeling tired

Unfortunately, there is no proven cure for this summer health issue at present, but there are various things you can do to relieve your symptoms, including showering and changing your clothes after you have been outside to wash off any pollen. You can also try to keep your windows shut as much as possible.

Say goodbye to skin tags this summer

Summer sun means donning your swimwear. But if the thought of this is a little daunting because skin tags are affecting your body confidence, make an appointment at our clinic where we can remove with them safely and quickly right here in the practice. That way, nothing can hold you back from enjoying your long-overdue holiday.

What is a skin tag?

Skin tags are small, soft, skin-coloured growths that commonly appear on the neck, armpits, around the groin or under the breasts. They are completely harmless and don’t cause any pain or discomfort, nor are they contagious. They are quite common amongst pregnant women and can appear as the result of hormone changes.

Can skin tags be removed?

Whilst skin tags are harmless, some people choose to have them removed for a variety of reasons. A larger skin tag, for example, might catch on clothing or the individual might be self-conscious about how it looks. The good news is that skin tags can be removed safely and quickly right here at our practice.

How it works

Skin tags can be removed effectively through a process known as cryotherapy. This involves freezing the area which kills the cells within the skin tag, blocking the blood supply and causing it to eventually drop off. The whole process is over within just a few minutes, although it is worth noting that larger skin tags may require more than one treatment session.

The doctor will see you now

Call 289 588923 or email our reception team at  to book an appointment at a time that suits you. We’re open five days a week and we often have short-notice appointments available.

At your initial appointment, one of our highly qualified will carry out an in-depth consultation to discuss and assess the skin tag. Here, they will inform you if the skin tag can be removed in the practice.

Should the GP decide it is safe to proceed with the removal, an appointment will be made at the practice.