See your doctor if you develop a new mole or notice a change in an existing mole or area of your skin (including under your nail).
Even if you’re worrying about what this might be, you shouldn’t delay seeing them. Your worry is unlikely to go away if you don’t make an appointment. You won’t be wasting your doctor’s time. It might not be cancer. But if it is, the earlier a cancer is picked up, the more likely it can be treated successfully.
Getting the most out of your GP appointment
It can be difficult to remember everything you want to say and ask when you see the doctor. These tips will help you get the most out of your appointment.
- Make a note of when you first noticed the abnormal area of skin and if there have been any changes.
- Write down any questions that you have while you think of them.
- Bring a friend or relative - they could also ask questions and help you remember what the GP says.
- Tell your GP if you are worried about cancer in particular.
- Ask the GP to explain anything you don’t understand.
- Ask the GP to write things down for you if you think this might help.
What happens during your GP appointment
Your doctor will look at your mole or abnormal area of skin. They might:
- measure it with a ruler or against a marker scale
- take a photo so they can record any changes
- examine it closely with a dermatoscope (like a magnifying glass)
There are particular features of moles that they look out for, such as changes in size, colour and shape. And if there is any inflammation, bleeding or itching.
Depending on this, your doctor might:
- reassure you
- refer you to a skin specialist (dermatologist), or pigmented lesion clinic if there's one in your area
- take a photograph and refer you to a teledermatology clinic
A pigmented lesion clinic is a dermatology clinic that specialises in picking up suspicious moles and diagnosing melanoma.
Teledermatology is a new pathway for referral, where a digital picture is taken and assessed by the skin specialist.
Ask your GP to explain if they don’t think you need a referral. They might ask you to come back in a couple of weeks or months so they can monitor your mole or abnormal area of skin. Go back any time if you notice any further changes.
Questions for your GP
- Do I need to see a specialist, is it urgent?
- When will I see them?
- Will I find out about my appointments by post or telephone?
- Will I need tests? What will they involve?
If they don't think you need a referral
- Can you explain to me why I don’t need to see a specialist?
- Do I need to see you again?
- What changes should I look out for?
What happens next
Make sure you know what happens next. Make another appointment if you notice any more changes to your mole or skin, or you are still concerned.
How to find a GP
If you don’t have a GP, you can find a doctor’s surgery in your local area by going to:
Making a GP appointment
You can book an appointment online at most GP surgeries. Or you can telephone them or go in person. You don’t have to tell the receptionist what you want to see the doctor for, although sometimes it might help to explain your situation.
Try different times of the day if it's difficult to get through by phone. It could be particularly busy at the beginning of the day. Your surgery might have a clinic you can turn up to and wait to see a doctor. You might have to wait a long time, but you’ll see a doctor that day.
If it’s difficult to get to the surgery, check whether your practice has telephone appointments with a doctor or nurse practitioner. They’ll tell you if you need to go in to see them at the surgery.
Accept a booked appointment, even if you think it’s a long time to wait. You could ask about cancellations if you are able to get to the practice at short notice.