Ohio residents may be interested in a draft recommendation statement about skin cancer screenings released by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force on Dec. 1. According to the release, it is unclear if a full-body visual exam by a physician significantly reduces mortality from skin cancer. The USPSTF said that patients should still discuss any skin cancer questions with their doctors.
One concern of the USPSTF is balancing the benefits of early diagnosis with the drawbacks of misdiagnoses and unnecessary procedures. There may be scarring and other negative effects from these misdiagnoses and procedures.
In 2009, the USPSTF released a similar statement regarding the lack of evidence for the usefulness of visual exams. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, the best prevention is encouraging people to minimize time in the sun. Skin cancer is usually not fatal. About 74,000 people receive a diagnosis of melanoma each year while there are only about 9,900 annual fatalities.
However, people should not allow these figures to discourage them from discussing any concerns about skin cancer with a physician. If a patient is worried about skin cancer, a physician should follow up. In some cases, a doctor might fail to do so, and the patient could suffer a poorer prognosis as a result. Another danger is that a doctor may mistakenly think a patient has skin cancer and recommend an unnecessary procedure. If a person feels that they have been harmed by a wrong diagnosis, they may wish to file a civil suit against the physician and the medical facility. Both situations may lead to more medical expenses, stress and health risks. If the patient can demonstrate that they did not receive a reasonable standard of care and that the doctor was negligent, a civil suit may be successful.