Skin cancer patient information
Find out what to expect when you come to hospital for your appointment at the skin cancer service.
Before your appointment
All patients are seen within two weeks of referral. It is imperative that you attend your first appointment within two weeks of referral. Please be aware that though this may require you to alter plans at the last minute, it is essential that we begin investigations and treatment if necessary as soon as possible.
We encourage you to bring a partner, relative, close friend or carer to your appointments, as you will need to discuss your condition, which could mean discussing good or bad news.
Please wear comfortable loose-fitting clothes, as you may need to undress in order for some investigations or examinations to be performed.
Check your appointment letter for anything specific you may have been asked to take. In general it would be helpful if you could bring the following:
- your full address and telephone number(s)
- your appointment card and appointment letter
- your GP’s name and address
- money to pay for any prescriptions, or an exemption card
- a list of questions you may want to ask your consultant
During your appointment
Please note that we are a teaching hospital, so medical students may be present for some appointments. If you do not wish to have them in the room please let the nurse or doctor know and the students will be asked to step outside.
The clinician will speak with you, asking questions about your concerns and taking a history. Following this it may be necessary to perform some examinations.
When attending the skin cancer clinic for the first time it is likely that you will require a full skin check, where one of our dermatologist examines your skin for any symptoms of skin cancer, be prepared that you may have to undress down to your underwear.
You may also require a skin biopsy to determine the diagnosis. A skin biopsy is when a sample of tissue is taken from the skin and sent to the laboratory for examination under the microscope. The results usually come back within one to two weeks and you may need a follow up appointment to discuss the results.
A biopsy can be done in several ways, such as a punch biopsy (a cylindrical section through all layers of the lesion) or an excision (when the tumour is cut away, along with some clear skin around it). Both are closed with sutures (stitches).
After your appointment
Following your appointment you will be given a plan for the next steps to further tests or treatment. You may also be seen by a specialist nurse who will help coordinate your care.
After your initial appointment a letter will be sent to your GP outlining the findings of your appointment. You will be sent a copy of this letter.
As part of the Macmillan Cancer Support and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust partnership, we’ve introduced the Macmillan cancer navigators service.
Macmillan navigators offer a single phone contact for all cancer patients. They can help with booking appointments, accessing local support services and finding answers to any questions. Please call the Macmillan navigators team with any questions you have about your cancer care. Learn more about Macmillan navigators.
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