If you’re like most people, chances are you have a physician, a dentist and maybe an optometrist. But one specialist that many people may not have in their medical arsenal is a plastic surgeon – and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons would like to change that.
The largest and foremost plastic surgery society in the world, the ASPS provides training and accreditation to plastic surgeons both in the United States and abroad. It also provides education and resources to patients interested in cosmetic and plastic surgery. Recently, the ASPS announced its recommendation that patients add visiting a plastic surgeon to their skin care routine – but it’s not for the reason you may think.
“The ASPS recommends you visit a plastic surgeon to be screened for skin cancer,” says Dr. Bruce Chau, a plastic surgeon based in Berkeley, Michigan. “This is because as doctors we are trained to not just identify skin cancer, but we can expertly remove it as well.”
Chau says that while a dermatologist or general practitioner may be able to diagnose skin cancer, neither would be able to remove the damaged tissue as expertly as a plastic surgeon.
“A surgeon is trained to do this type of thing every single day,” he says. “It’s a procedure we’re not just familiar with, but that we are trained to do as neatly and seamlessly as possible.”
Furthermore, Chau says visiting a plastic surgeon for screenings has a few other benefits that another practitioner might not.
“First, if you are diagnosed by a surgeon, you don’t have to then go to a second specialist for removal,” he says. “But you can also use that opportunity to learn more about proper skin care and sun protection. Many plastic surgeons sell medical-grade skin care products only available through doctors.”
Even those with sun damage that is not cancerous can benefit from visiting a surgeon, says Chau.
“There are many skin treatments offered at plastic surgery clinics that can improve the look and feel of the skin, from laser treatments to chemical peels,” he says. “And nobody performs them more safely and accurately than a licensed and board-certified plastic surgeon.”
So, Chau says, before you step outside make sure you’re wearing sunblock on all exposed skin, and follow the directions on the bottle for reapplication. Also, heed the advice of Chau and the ASPS and perform regular self-exams on your skin.
“If your skin changes, if new moles appear, or your moles change size, shape or color, find a board-certified plastic surgeon immediately and have it checked out. No matter what, you’ll be in good hands,” says Chau.