Skin Cancer Screenings in San Francisco, CA

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At Bay Area Cosmetic Dermatology, we offer various cosmetic dermatology treatments. Our skilled and experienced medical dermatologists, Dr. Welsh and Dr. Hui Austin, also provide comprehensive skin cancer screenings to patients in the San Francisco, CA area. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. The high prevalence of skin cancer makes annual skin cancer screenings a vital part of your overall health, especially with a family or personal history of melanoma or other skin cancer concerns. Early detection is key, giving patients more treatment options and a better outcome. 

During a skin cancer screening, our experienced and qualified San Francisco, CA doctors are looking for the following four types of skin lesions or spots: 

  • Actinic keratoses (AKs) tend to form after the age of 40 on areas of the skin that have been overexposed to the sun, such as the head, neck, hands, and forearms. AKs appear as dry, scaly patches and are commonly called “pre-cancers” because they have the potential to develop into squamous cell carcinoma.
  • Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer. BCC can form anywhere on the body and may appear as a pink area or a flesh-colored or pearl-like bump. BCC needs to be treated because it has the potential to grow into nerves and bones, causing damage and disfigurement.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common form of skin cancer. Forming on skin that gets the most sun exposure, SCC appears as scaly patches, red firm bumps, and/or sores that heal and reopen. These too must be removed to prevent damage and disfigurement.
  • The deadliest form of skin cancer is melanoma. Melanoma develops suddenly as a dark spot on the skin. Our doctors look for the ABCDs to detect melanoma: A = asymmetry, B = border, C = color, D = diameter. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, melanoma accounts for only one percent of skin cancer cases but the majority of skin cancer deaths. For this reason, melanoma must be treated almost immediately following diagnosis.

What happens during a skin cancer screening? 

If one of our board-certified doctors sees a suspicious spot or lesion on the skin, they will make a preliminary diagnosis. If the doctor believes the spot to be an AK, then cryotherapy using liquid nitrogen is typically sprayed on the lesion. Afterward, the spot may swell or blister, but ultimately the AK skin cells will shed in about a week or two. Sometimes a small white mark or scar remains in the treated area. If the doctor suspects BCC, SCC, or melanoma, a small biopsy of the area will be taken. First, the doctor will numb the area with an injection of lidocaine, then a small sample will be shaved off using a scalpel to be sent to a pathologist for a complete diagnosis. Once our office receives the pathology results, generally within 7 – 10 days, we will call to discuss the information and determine the call-to-action for treatment. 

If the biopsy results are a form of skin cancer, we will refer a patient to a surgical expert or skin cancer surgeon, while providing all the necessary patient information and referral paperwork. The referral site will then reach out to schedule the surgical appointment. Once the surgery is complete, our office will receive a full report and follow up with the patient. 

I've been going to Dr. Welsh for 10 years and have always been pleased with my experience in every way.  Dr. Welsh caught the beginning of skin cancer on my face, which my primary was able to remove immediately.  She and her staff are friendly, warm and attentive.  (Yes, sometimes doctors do run behind...)I love Dr. Welsh and her staff more than they love skin!

N.Z. Yelp

So practically overnight, I developed a bright red and very itchy scalp, neck and decollate. My skin was totally inflamed for seemingly no reason. Over a year and a half, I consulted 4 dermatologists in two states seeking a solution and an answer to what caused this. Between these doctors I had a scalp biopsy taken (needed a stitch), was given 3 topical creams, several oral meds, and even a peanut oil based solution to wear on my head, under a plastic cap - overnight for 2 weeks! Talk about annoying and messy. As a new San Franciscan, I made an appointment with Dr Hui for my annual skin check and asked her to take a look. She thought I was either allergic to hair dye or nail polish (allergic contact dermatitis). I was somewhat skeptical about the polish being the cause, I mean after all, how could polish on my nails affect my head? So instead I visited my hair salon to have a glob of hair dye put on my arm, under a bandage, for 48 hours. Thankfully, there was no reaction! So thinking that Dr Hui knows her stuff, I removed the polish on both my fingers and toes. The next day I had no irritation or redness. What a relief and what a simple solution - that no other physician had thought of! Thank you Dr Hui!

M.B. Yelp

Dr Hui-Austin has made every person in my family better with her brilliant mind, out of the box approach to tough technical skin problems, anti-aging support and serious skin care. We left Stanford for her and never looked back. She is kind, gentle, supportive, inventive and compassionate. Me: 55, Ultherapy, skin cancer checks, Emsala for incontinence!!!!!! Daughter: 18, acne, skin checks, kybella for chin fat pocket inherited from father Son-21, cystic acne, terrible scarring on face and back Husband- skin tags and other issues We all love her! Thank you for everything!!

K.W. Yelp

Dr. Hui-Austin is the loveliest doctor I've met in San Francisco. I'm a 90 year old transplant from New York, and Dr. Hui-Austin has successfully treated me for 2 Mohs surgeries, other cancer checks, skin lesions that wouldn't heal on my lower legs, scrapes and falls. The staff treats me with such respect. They help me to the examination room, speak loudly so I can hear and make me feel dignified even as I'm aging. Boy oh boy, am I glad I was recommended to her by another elderly acquaintance. Dr. Hui-Austin is just a good person and a great doctor.

H.W. Yelp

I have been to many dermatologists in the Bay Area and only since under Dr. Austin’s care have I had incredible results. She has been able to effectively treat my post pregnancy case of severe rosacea (5 other derms could not!), accumulated sun damage and sun cancer prevention. I am so grateful. If you are struggling with any skin condition, I know Dr. Austin and team will be able to help. They are amazing!!

O.S. Yelp


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Will my skin cancer screening be covered by insurance? 

Bay Area Cosmetic Dermatology does not accept any primary or secondary insurance plans, including MediCal or Medicare. All skin cancer screenings and biopsies performed at our facility will be an out-of-pocket expense for patients. The lab that conducts the biopsy results, however, does accept health insurance plans. With each biopsy sent off to our lab provider, we will include patient insurance information Please note, the lab charges a separate fee from our office for pathology services. The lab will contact you to collect payment for this service. 

Please note on biopsies or any excision of the skin, there is a risk of scarring. Our experienced doctors will do their best to minimize the appearance of any scarring by taking the smallest skin sample possible for optimal results. However, in some cases, scarring can still occur. Fortunately, we can provide laser treatments to help minimize or reduce the appearance of scars post-biopsy.

Should I do a full body skin cancer screening every year? 

If you are currently seeing one of our skin care experts for cosmetic dermatology treatments, please consider adding a skin cancer screening to your next visit. Prevention and early detection are key when treating skin cancer. If you are overdue for a regular skin cancer screening or have a skin lesion, mole, or spot that has changed in appearance, please contact our San Francisco, CA office to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors today. 

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