Checking your body on a regular basis for signs of skin cancer can help save your life and allows you to receive needed treatment as soon as possible.
At Dermatology Associates P.C. in Norwood, Foxboro and Franklin, we offer skin cancer screenings from trained professionals to ensure your skin is healthy and cancer-free. But you can help prevent skin cancer at home by performing self-exams to determine if anything is amiss. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that self-exams be done once a month, and that you visit a doctor once a year for a full-body skin exam.
What is a skin self exam?
It is a process in which you examine your entire body for changes in the skin that may be warnings of the most common skin cancers – basal and squamous cell carcinomas and melanoma.
Basal cell carcinoma can lead to disfiguring if it’s not treated promptly. Squamous cell carcinoma leads to around 2,500 deaths each year in the United States.
Signs you may have these cancers are:
- A spot, a lesion with scales or a growth that appears wart-like. Itching, pain, crusting, scabbing , oozing and bleeding can occur in the problem area.
- An open sore or wound that does not get better within three weeks.
- A yellow, white or wax-like area.
- A red-colored area that is irritated.
Melanoma killed nearly 9,000 Americans in 2011. This cancer can appear to be a harmless mole. But melanomas and moles are different, and it’s important to be able to distinguish between the two.
A common technique to determine what is melanoma and what’s not is the ABCDE description process.:
- A: A mole is asymmetrical, meaning its two sides don’t match.
- B: The mole is irregular in its border or outline.
- C: The mole’s color changes or looks translucent, brown, tan, black or has multiple colors.
- D: The mole is larger than six millimeters, about the size of an eraser on a pencil.
- E: The mole evolves, or changes.
Moles that pop up after your turn 21 years old should raise red flags. New skin growths, moles, beauty marks or brown spots are causes for concern and should prompt a visit to the doctor.
To best perform your self-exam, get a bright light, full-length and hand mirrors, a couple of chairs and a hair dryer.
- Study your face in the full-length mirror, focusing on the lips, nose, mouth and ears.
- Use the hair dryer to check out your scalp, exposing different areas to view.
- Check your hands, palms, fingers and fingernails. Also examine the forearms, front and back.
- Look at your upper arms and underarms.
- Check your chest, neck and torso areas. Women should check under their breasts.
- With your back facing the full-length mirror, use your hand mirror to check the upper back, shoulders and neck.
- Using both mirrors, check your lower back, the back of your legs and buttocks.
- Take a seat and place your foot on a second chair. With the hand mirror, check your genital area. Also examine your legs, ankles and feet, top and bottom and between your toes.
When you perform your next self-exam, check for changes in your skin. If you notice changes, consult a doctor.
At Dermatology Associates, our trained and professional staff can perform biopsies and other procedures to ensure your skin is cancer free. Contact us today to schedule a skin exam.