Self-examining your skin for cancer is of utmost importance. You don’t need x-rays or complicated blood tests to determine whether you have skin cancer. All you need is a mirror and some knowledge. The earlier you detect cancer, the more chances there are of it being treated successfully.
Experts recommend examining your skin regularly- twice a month at the very least. This is especially important for those who have a high risk of skin cancer. This includes those with weak immunity, people who have struggled with cancer in the past, and those who have a family history of skin cancer. Your doctor will be able to guide you better on how often you should self-examine yourself.
The best way for self-examining your skin for cancer is to do it in a well-lit room, preferably one that has loads of sunlight and a full-length mirror. A hand-held mirror can be used for parts that are hard to reach, for example, the back of your shoulders. You can ask a loved one, such as a family member, friend, or spouse, to help you look at areas that are out of your vision zone, such as your scalp.
Make sure you do not rush the process of examining your skin. Do not do this on a busy day. Instead, allow yourself time to go over every inch of your body. Discover moles, blemishes, freckles, and the different marks that your skin has. Learn the appearance and placement of each so that in case any change appears, you notice it.
Here is a step-by-step guide to examining your skin:
1. Face The Mirror Directly
Slowly go over your face, ears, neck, chest, and belly. Make sure to cover each surface and get to know your skin. Women need to lift their breasts up to examine the skin underneath.
Lift your arms and look at the underarms of each arm. Pull the skin taut and look for lumps. Go over the tops of your hand, along with your palm. Closely look at your fingers and notice any spots. Do not forget your fingernails.
2. Slowly Sit Down
When sitting down, slowly bend over and look at the front surface of your thighs and shins. You can place your legs up on a chair to make this easier.
Bring your feet up to look at the tops. Notice the skin in-between all five toes, and check underneath your toenails.
3. Grab A Mirror
Grab a mirror and angle it so that you can see the bottom of your feet. Look at your calves and the back of your thighs. Make sure to lift one leg and then check the other.
Using the hand-held mirror, bend down or look over your shoulder to examine the buttocks and the skin inside. Examine the genital area, along with the upper and lower back. Press down to check for lumps. Use the mirror to look at the back of your neck and ears. You can also use a wall mirror, along with the hand mirror, to look at your back to make this process easier.
4. Use A Comb
With the help of a comb or hairdryer, examine your scalp. Keep a thinner comb with you so that you can part your hair when needed.
Body Parts That Must Be Examined
- Upper back
- Neck and shoulders
- Lower back
What To Search For
Skin cancer can show up in many shapes and sizes. This is why it is essential to understand the warning signs linked to basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), melanoma, Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), and precancer actinic keratosis (AK).
In case you notice anything new or strange-looking, make sure to show your dermatologist immediately. You never know- it could be an early onset of skin cancer.
Here is what to look for:
- Any kind of growth that increases in shape or size can be dangerous. Notice for colors such as transparent, brown, black, tan, or multicolored.
- A mole that gets bigger or thicker over time. This can also be a birthmark or brown spot that changes color or texture. Remember, no spot should be bigger than a pencil eraser.
- Any kind of spot that hurts, scabs, or bleeds on and off.
- Any open sore that takes more than three weeks to heal.
In Case You Notice Anything Unusual
If you, at any point, find something on your skin that raises doubts or suspicions, immediately contact your doctor. This is especially recommended if you notice something on your skin that has appeared or changed on your body over the past month.
If there are any doubts that you have skin cancer, your doctor will conduct a series of tests to rule out any possibility. In case you are unable to visit your doctor immediately, take zoomed-in, properly lit pictures of the area on your skin and send them to your doctor. This will help put you at ease.
Doctors will usually ask you about when the spot first appeared on your skin, whether it has changed in looks, and how itchy or painful it has been. You will be asked if you have any history of skin cancer in your family and whether you have indulged in self-tanning routines. The doctor will conduct a physical examination and will write down the color, shape, size, and texture of the suspicious spot on your skin. Any signs of oozing, bleeding, or crusting will also be noted down.
You may also be recommended to visit a dermatologist. This is because dermatologists specialize in skin disorders and diseases and will be able to guide you properly. Remember, self-examining your skin for cancer is important at all ages and for both genders. Cancer does not discriminate against age, body, ethnicity, or size.