Things to keep in mind when giving yourself a skin cancer self-exam:
- Gather the proper supplies before getting started.
- Ask for help from a friend or family member, if possible.
- Take your time.
- Be thorough.
Supplies you will need for your skin cancer self-examination:
- Two mirrors, one full-length and a hand-held
- A bright light
- Chair or stool
- Hair dryer
- Pencil and paper
Steps for a proper skin cancer self-examination:
1. Examine your face. Pay close attention to your nose, lips, mouth and the front and back of your ears. Use mirrors as needed.
2. Examine your scalp. If needed, use the hair dryer to blow hair away from your scalp, making each section of your scalp easier to view.
3. Carefully check your hands. Include palms, the back of your hands and the webbing between fingers and fingernails.
4. Next inspect wrists and arms, both forearms and upper arms. Don’t forget to check your underarm areas, too.
5. Your neck, chest and torso come next. Women, remember the underside of your breasts.
6. Inspect the back of your neck, shoulders and upper back. You will need to use the full-length mirror.
7. Move on to your lower body, including your lower back, buttocks and both legs.
8. Sitting on a chair or stool, check the front of each leg, genitals and feet. Remember to check between your toes, under the toenails and the bottoms of your feet.
9. You’ll want to record any spots or growths that you find and the location on your body.
For an illustrated guide to a self-exam, visit this site.
What are you looking for during your skin cancer self-exam?
Remember to look for A-B-C-D-E:
- Asymmetry: Any spot or lesion that’s not the same on one side as it is on the other.
- Border: Any spot or lesion that is irregular in outline
- Color: When a spot or lesion has a color that’s not uniform, it may be cause for concern.
- Diameter: A spot that is bigger than a pencil eraser.
- Evolving: Any spot that’s changing.
In addition, take notice of any spot or growth that itches, bleeds, or appears after the age of 21.
How often should you perform a self-examination?
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends monthly head-to-toe self-exams, and to always follow-up with a doctor if you find any changes in your skin. Yearly skin cancer exams performed by a doctor are also advised.
If it's detected early, skin cancer is the most preventable type of cancer. In most cases, and with early detection, skin cancer is 99% curable. Make a skin cancer self-examination part of your monthly routine, and encourage your family members to do so as well - it’s a simple, painless step to preventing cancer and staying healthy.
Live Healthy. Live Smart.