How my own product finally got me to the dermatologist

While I do not exercise as much as I should and readily admit that sugar is a major vice, I am pretty good about going to the doctor. I religiously go to the dentist twice a year, attended all my recommended prenatal visits (even during the pandemic), and see my allergist regularly.

But despite a family history of skin cancer (father with 11 basal cell carcinomas and a brother with squamous cell carcinoma at age 22), it had been two years since my last skin exam. I was overdue, having had several moles removed at my last appointment. Balancing the fear of leaving the house during the pandemic and waiting a little longer, I continued to wait.

As the Head of Product for SkinIO, however, I know the value of testing our products before we release them. That is why I asked everyone in our company as well as a select group of friends and family to test our new at-home skin cancer screening tool. We not only ask people to test the software and submit photos, we have a dermatologist review those photos just as they will be reviewed when our product is live.

I submitted my photos, including close-up photos of a few spots that I was worried about. A few days later, I got my results. I had been flagged for follow-up, meaning that the dermatologist had seen something in my photos that they were concerned about and I should make an appointment to see my own dermatologist as soon as possible. They flagged two of my spots that required an in-person exam.

A few days later, I was waiting for the dermatologist to enter my exam room. From working at SkinIO, I know that new or changing spots are the biggest red flags for skin cancer. So I found myself scrolling through photos on my phone, looking for pictures that would show the spots. Were they new? Had they grown? Why was it so hard to find a photo that actually showed that part of my skin?

I was evaluated by the dermatologist. One spot was frozen off with liquid nitrogen. The other was evaluated with a new technology called DermTech where medical stickers are used to gather skin cells that are tested in a lab for skin cancer. This avoids the need for a biopsy that would leave a scar.

Luckily, I received my results of the test within a week; my mole was benign - good news! I felt a lightening in my chest. Now I could look in the mirror and not wonder if any of my spots might be cancer. I could just look at me.

Thanks to this process, I not only got into the doctor for the evaluation I needed, but I knew that my husband (who also tested our product) had nothing to worry about on his skin. We also now have digital records of our skin. The next time I am wondering if a spot is new or has changed, I will not have to go searching through my phone to find photos of myself in a swimsuit. Instead, I will have an easy way to check my photos with SkinIO. And over time, I can add photos to this record and our software will flag spots that appear new or have changed.

Yes, I should have gone to the dermatologist on my own based on my concerns. (If you are ever worried about a medical condition, please contact a medical professional.) But by testing my own product to make sure it is easy and effective for others, I also got the treatment that I needed.