What is Actinic Keratosis?
What You Need to Know
• AKs are benign, but if left untreated they can turn into squamous cell carcinoma
• Avoid sun and wear sunscreen to reduce your chances of getting AKs
• Checking your own skin once a month for abnormalities and changes in AKs can lead to early detection of any problems
• AKs can usually be diagnosed visually, though a biopsy may be necessary for confirmation
You can also help protect yourself by examining your own skin once a month. It is often difficult to diagnose skin cancer just by appearance. This is why it’s so important for you to check your own skin and notify your doctor of anything you find. Examine yourself from head to toe, using a mirror when necessary. Look for any changes to existing moles and freckles, sores that take more than 3 weeks to heal, spots that hurt or itch continuously, growths that have increased in size or are larger than a pencil eraser, irregular outlines or changes in color or texture. If you note any changes in your skin, see your dermatologist. Know Your Spots >>
Diagnosis and Treatment
Your doctor can usually diagnose an actinic keratosis visually and confirm the diagnosis with a biopsy if necessary. This is most commonly done under local anesthesia and involves removing the abnormality and a thin layer of the surrounding skin for examination under a microscope. After examining the sample, a Cockerell Dermatopathology dermatopathologist will provide your doctor with a definitive diagnosis.
Common treatments for Actinic Keratosis include chemical peels, cryosurgery (freezing the growth with liquid nitrogen), chemotherapy creams or ointments, laser therapy under local anesthesia and photodynamic therapy (application or injection of a solution to make the area sensitive to light, followed by treatment by laser).
What is Dermatopathology?
The combination of pathology (using a microscope to identify diseases) and dermatology (diagnosing and treating diseases of the skin, nails and hair) is called dermatopathology. Dermatopathologists are highly trained physicians who examine tissue specimens under a microscope, use the medical information shared by your doctor and consult with him or her as necessary. This personal service and collaboration between your doctor and our dermatopathologists help ensure the most precise, conclusive diagnosis.
About Cockerell Dermatopathology
Cockerell Dermatopathology, located in the heart of Dallas’ medical district, was founded by Dr. Clay J. Cockerell, former president of the American Academy of Dermatology and internationally recognized dermatologist and dermatopathologist. Cockerell Dermatopathology offers diagnostic excellence and unparalleled service in the evaluation of dermatologic disorders ranging from the routine to the most difficult. To best serve referring clinicians and their patients, Cockerell Dermatopathology continues to invest in the future by implementing advanced technologies within the laboratory. These new technologies produce higher quality slides to diagnose, improves turnaround time on routine cases and allows for quicker deployment of EMR interfaces. From an academic standpoint, Cockerell Dermatopathology hosts numerous Internet-based continuing education events and has a 14-headed microscope for in-person training sessions. Cockerell Dermatopathology serves more than 800 clinicians from across Texas, the United States and abroad. With an accessible team of board-certified dermatopathologists and a highly trained support staff, Cockerell Dermatopathology’s vision is to treat every specimen as if it came from one of our own family members.
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