What Really Goes on at a SpotMe Skin Cancer Screening? A Behind-the-Curtain Look

Has anyone ever told you “you should really get that mole checked out”?

What if there were an easy way to do that?

Polka Dot Mama Melanoma Foundation and the American Academy of Dermatology have partnered to offer free SpotMe screenings for skin cancer at locations around North Carolina. All screenings are performed by dermatologists.

Sounds Great, But I Have No Time

You’re busy– work, family, exercise, errands, housework, etc.– and you just don’t see how you can fit in one more thing. For this screening, that’s not a problem. Once you arrive, it will take just 10 minutes to sign in and get yourself screened— maybe a few minutes more in the summer, when screenings are most popular. That’s about as much time as it takes to stop for coffee.

Some screenings are done at dermatology practices, and some take place on the Shade Shuttle, a school bus converted into a mobile examination room. The Shade Shuttle goes everywhere– churches, community events, even to a micro brewery. Stacey Sprenz, a melanoma survivor who had one of the early screenings on the shuttle, said that being screened on the bus is just like seeing a doctor in an office.

How Do I Get Screened?

Depending on the screening location, you may need to make an appointment. Many locations accept walk-ins too. You can check the screening calendar for locations and appointment/walk-in information.

Then, you show up. You’ll fill out a form with some demographic information. This form also has an area for the doctor to enter information about your screening.

Before the exam takes place, you’ll meet the doctor who is conducting the screening. If you have any spots you’re worried about, it’s a good idea to tell the doctor about them. You can also ask questions about the screening process.

And Then You’ll Get Naked

Actually, you’ll change into a gown.

You’ll have a private area to change. Though it might seem daunting to have a near-stranger examine your skin, keep in mind she’s a professional and she’s seen it all before. And she’s not evaluating whether you’re ready to become America’s next top model.

After you’re changed, the doctor will come back to the exam room. The doctor will systematically check the different areas of your skin. He or she may use a lighted magnifying glass to see the details of particular spots.

The doctor will identify any suspicious spots and provide you with their location and the reason for the concern, using the form that you filled out when you signed in. Take your copy of the form with you to follow up with your dermatologist. If you don’t have a dermatologist, you’ll get recommendations for finding one.

When your screening is done, you’ll change back into your clothes and then you’ll be on your way.

Wait! There’s More

Before you go, you’ll also be able to pick up educational materials– including information about melanoma prevention and treatment. You’ll probably also be able to grab a free sunscreen sample.

Stacey Sprenz recalled that some SpotMe events featured an unusual give-away– a bracelet that turns blue when exposed to the sun. The darker the color, the more sun exposure your skin is getting. Stacey noted the bracelet is helpful in letting you know there’s exposure even when you don’t think you’re getting any, like when you are outside under an awning. “You may be sitting in the shade,” Sprenz said, “but light is bouncing off surfaces and reflecting onto your skin.”

What If There’s a Suspicious Spot?

If the doctor at the screening finds something that might be skin cancer, she or he will let you know. This is a great time to ask questions if there’s anything that you don’t understand about the suspicious spot, or how to communicate with your dermatologist about the findings.

Since SpotMe is designed to screen, not to treat, you’ll need to make an appointment with a dermatologist for the next step. Tell them you had a screening and need to follow up on a suspicious mole. Bring your form with you to your appointment, so your doctor can review the findings from the screening.

The next step is usually to remove all or part of the suspicious spot, which will then be reviewed by a lab. The results of the lab test will determine what happens next. If the test shows cancer, your doctor will review the result and discuss treatment options with you. The options depend on the cancer type and stage. There’s more information available from the American Academy of Dermatology at their Skin Cancer page.

What If I Don’t Have Health Insurance

Even if you don’t have health insurance, you can and should get testing and treatment for a suspicious spot. Check out No health insurance? How to follow up after a screening for information about how to get treatment when you don’t have insurance. Early detection and treatment saves lives, so don’t let a lack of insurance keep you from following up.

2 Responses

  1. Randy

    The SPOTme screenings, in my experience, seem to be mostly lead-generators for local dermatology practices that run them. If you have insurance, go see your regular dermatologist. If you don’t have insurance, you pay full price out of pocket. So shop around. I found my appointment mostly useless and a waste of time.

  2. Thanks for pointing out that the doctor who does the skin cancer screening will be able to recommend a dermatologist if you don’t already have one. I have a mole that I want to have looked at, so I’ve been doing some research online to better understand what to expect. I’m glad to know the doctor will be able to recommend a dermatologist for follow-up so I won’t have to go through the hassle of finding one myself.

You are donating to : Greennature Foundation

How much would you like to donate?
$10 $20 $30
Would you like to make regular donations? I would like to make donation(s)
How many times would you like this to recur? (including this payment) *
Name *
Last Name *
Email *
Additional Note