Following Up, Virtually

By Steve Blanchard - May 14, 2020

Familiarity with your skin is an essential part to staying healthy. So is knowing when to have suspicious moles or lesions examined by a dermatologist. But are doctors still doing skin checks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moffitt Cancer Center board certified dermatologist Dr. Lucia Seminario-Vidal says yes. She encourages patients to bring any concerns about their skin to her office, where she can examine the suspicious areas and perform a biopsy if necessary.

But another important part of treatment is monitoring the patient’s progress following their initial visit, which may require several follow up visits to the cancer center. The pandemic, however, has created an opportunity for a new patient follow-up experience – virtual visits.

“It’s important to remember that Moffitt is a safe place for patients to come and get checked out,” Seminario-Vidal said. “We follow Centers for Disease Control guidelines with providers wearing masks and eye protection. You are safe here, so don’t compromise your health by not coming to get a suspicious area on your skin examined. That initial visit needs to be in person.”

But patients, even when there is not a global pandemic, are not always excited to return to the cancer center for their follow up consultations. That may explain the spike in virtual visits via Zoom technology in recent months.

“Not only do patients feel more secure in their homes with their significant other or family, but we are able to go over everything we need to as well as answer any questions they may have in a much more comfortable way,” she said.

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"It’s important to remember that Moffitt is a safe place for patients to come and get checked out."

- Dr. Lucia Seminario-Vidal

These visits allow clinicians to share vital information about a patient’s treatment and take a visual assessment of the biopsy wound. It allows the interaction between physician and patient to unfold just as it would in the clinic, but with added convenience.

“I have patients from South Florida who take the better part of a day to come to Moffitt for follow up appointments,” she said. “Virtual appointments allow them to get the same information they would get in person but it saves them a day of driving.”

The Zoom appointments also alleviate some of the scheduling stress for clinicians and promotes education within the cancer center.

“We have trainees who are able to participate in some of these consultations and follow up visits now and it gives them a chance to greet patients and go over initial results,” she said. “It’s educational for them and allows them to participate in the patient discussion. It really benefits everyone involved.”

And for patients, Seminario-Vidal recommends paying attention to your skin and remembering the ABCDEs of skin care.

  • Asymmetry– If an imaginary line were to be drawn through the middle of a mole and the two halves didn’t match, the mole would be asymmetrical.
  • Borders– The borders of benign moles are generally even and smooth, while the borders of an early melanoma tend to be scalloped or notched.
  • Color– Because most benign moles are uniform in color (usually a single shade of brown) a mole that displays multiple colors, such as different shades of tan, brown, black, red, white or blue, is suspicious.
  • Diameter– Most melanomas are larger in diameter than an eraser at the tip of a pencil (approximately one quarter inch).
  • Evolving– Benign moles typically don’t change over time; a mole that evolves in terms of shape, size, color, elevation, bleeding, itching or crusting could be a melanoma.

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