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CHRONICLES ON HEALTH

Seeing New Skin Growths

"Are they something to worry about?"
By: Stef dela Cruz, MDSeeing New Skin Growths

New skin lesions can be cause for worry, prompting people to seek medical help. Because of the many types of skin lesions, it may be tricky to diagnose every single one. But with the help of careful physical examination and detailed history, a doctor can evaluate a skin lesion through a systematic means.

Any new skin lesion has to be examined for malignancy. Malignant lesions show certain morphologic characteristics that make a physician suspect skin cancer immediately. For instance, a non-healing lesion may be malignant. Certain types of moles, such as those with ill-defined borders, asymmetry, or variegated color, may have cancer cells as well.

Skin lesions can be classified as either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). A doctor can tell the difference between the two by looking for signs that point to common malignancies.

Signs and symptoms outside of the lesion can help pinpoint the nature of the lesion itself. This is when a doctor has to see beyond the skin. How old is a patient complaining of a new skin growth? Is he complaining of any other signs and symptoms? How much sun exposure has he had? What part of the body is the skin growth located? Answers to these questions help establish the right diagnosis.

The lesion itself should be closely examined. Any skin growth can be described in terms of its actual morphology. A lesion’s color, diameter, texture, number, distribution—and many other traits—help define the diagnosis.

The lesion may be put under microscopic scrutiny. New skin growths can be described based on the appearance of tissue samples under the microscope. The types of cells, the activity of blood cells and blood vessels, and other histologic characteristics can prove useful in determining the actual diagnosis.

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