It’s estimated that one in five people, regardless of skin color, will develop skin cancer in the course of their lives. When caught early, skin cancer can be the most treatable form of cancer. By working alongside your doctor, you can be proactive about screening for skin cancer by performing self examinations every one to two months.
How to Perform Self Examinations
Most patients prefer to perform their self examinations after they’ve showered though there is no benefit other than convenience. Start by examining your body– front and back– and then check your right and left side with arms raised. After examining your body, carefully examine your forearms, underarms and palms. Look at the front and the back of both legs, feet, soles of your feet and the spaces between your toes.
For the next portion of your body, you’ll need a hand mirror. With the hand mirror, examine your neck, scalp, back and butt. During this process, make sure you’re taking note of any spots– new or old– and how they’ve grown or changed since your last self examination if possible.
You can download a body mole map from the American Academy of Dermatologists to document your self examination.
What to Look for During a Self Examination
When performing a self examination, follow the ABCDE guidelines.
A: Asymmetrical- look for moles where one half is unlike the other half
B: Border- most non-cancerous moles have smooth borders. If a mole has irregular or poorly defined borders, consider getting it checked out.
C: Color- the color should be the same as the rest of your moles. Our bodies tend to produce the same color across all your moles. If one mole is suddenly reddish brown or black, bring it to your doctors attention.
D: Diameter- diameter can be confusing. While most melanomas are usually greater than 6mm, they can be diagnosed when they’re smaller. If a mole is 10mm across, definitely bring to your doctor’s attention.
E: Evolution- this is where it’s important to do regular self examinations. If a mole looks different from the rest and changes in size, shape or color from exam to exam, bring it to your doctor’s attention.
Other Warning Signs
There can be other warning signs of other types of skin cancer. If you notice a wound that won’t heal– and most people know how long it takes their body to heal– especially on your face, arms and neck this could be a sign of basal or squamous cell skin cancer.
Skin cancer is highly treatable when caught early. The earlier it’s caught, the chances of successfully treating it increases. Work with your doctor and provide valuable information through performing a self examination on your skin.