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Common Misconceptions of Dermatology

Dermatologists spend the majority of their time working on cosmetic procedures.

Dermatologists devote over 90% of their time caring for medical and surgical conditions, with less than 10% of the time spent on cosmetic procedures. Dermatologists diagnose and treat over 3,000 diseases, ranging from skin cancer to acne to eczema to bacterial infections to very complex medical dermatological conditions such as blistering diseases.

Dermatologists don’t see as many patients as other types of doctors.

At Dermatology Associates of Ithaca, our goal is to make dermatology care as accessible as possible for patients in the Ithaca and surrounding areas. The office is open five days a week with patient appointments available as early as 7:30 AM. We are constantly working to keep wait times for new appointments as short as possible, and have added new providers every year to keep up with demand. We try to see and treat patients as efficiently as possible and to address patients’ skin concerns promptly.

If I am scheduled to see the dermatology Physician Assistant (PA), that is not as good as seeing the doctor.

Our PA’s are highly trained in dermatology, representing several decades’ worth of collective dermatology experience. They then receive close mentorship and supervision from Dr. McAllister to ensure a consistently high quality of dermatology care offered in our office. We believe that our collaborative approach to providing care improves coordination, outcomes, and access for patients. Studies have shown that patients are just as satisfied with medical care provided by PA’s as with that provided by physicians.

If I wait long enough, this growth on my skin will go away on its own.

A non-healing growth or wound on your skin that does not resolve on its own within a couple of months is suspicious for skin cancer. It is important for you to call our office to schedule an appointment for a full skin examination so that we can help find and treat any skin cancers and precancerous lesions as early as possible, since skin cancers will only grow wider and deeper and be more difficult to treat if left alone. Since 2009, Dr. McAllister and her physician extenders have diagnosed and treated over 200 melanomas in Ithaca and the surrounding population.

Because I live in Upstate New York, I am not at risk for skin cancer and do not need to wear sunscreen. 

It is true that ultraviolet radiation levels are highest near the equator.  However, research studies conducted in the northern hemisphere demonstrate increases in melanoma due to recreational and vacation activities related to short periods of intense sun exposure.  This perfectly describes the pattern of sun exposure we observe in our community, in that when the long-awaited summer season arrives, participation in outdoor activities such as hiking, gardening, golfing, and swimming results in sunburns, tanning, and ambient UV exposure that adds to an individual’s lifetime accumulated sun exposure and thus skin cancer risk.  Furthermore, a significant portion of the population in Ithaca and the surrounding areas travels widely, for example spending winters in Florida, or vacationing in sunnier parts of the world, and traveling also contributes to increased sun exposure that one might otherwise not expect in a resident of upstate New York.  In our experience, rates of melanoma are just as high if not higher in our patient population compared to that of the country as a whole, and thus skin cancer screening and sun protection with sunscreen and sun-protective clothing is just as important for residents of Ithaca and the surrounding areas.

Dermatology is not a cost effective use of society’s resources.

Skin disease is second only to trauma as a cause of occupational disability, and accounts for a yearly economic loss to society of over $2 billion.  Furthermore, melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer, is responsible for many years of potential life lost as well as significant costs associated with premature mortality and morbidity.  Multiple studies have shown that dermatologic care is more cost efficient and of higher quality when provided by a dermatologist than by any other medical professional.  For example, according to one study dermatologists correctly diagnose skin disease 98 percent of the time, compared to 60 percent of general practitioners.  This allows patients to have their skin disease treated appropriately, in fewer patient visits, and for skin cancers to be detected and treated early.  Early detection and treatment of skin cancers particularly allows for the efficient use of health care resources, as the cost of treatment increases exponentially with advanced stages of skin cancer.  When a skin cancer is detected early, it can be removed in the dermatologist’s office, which is a simple outpatient procedure under local anesthesia.  This is much less expensive and carries a much lower risk of long term health consequences than treating a larger skin cancer under general anesthesia in the hospital or undergoing chemotherapy for skin cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.

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