Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer affecting millions of people world-wide each year. Skin cancer can be deadly but when detected early, it can be treated successfully. Performing a head to toe skin self-examination is an important preventative measure used to identify skin cancer before it becomes life threatening.
A skin self-exam only takes about 10 minutes to complete and should be done once a month. Ask a family member or close friend to help you perform your skin exam and this will help you identify suspicious patches of skin in areas that are hard to see or reach. In addition to monthly self-exams, it is recommended that you see your physician once a year for a professional skin exam.
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Look for any abnormal growths by first inspecting your hands. To include tops of hands, fingernails, palms of hands, and in between your fingers. Next stand in front of a full length mirror and examine your face and ears. Part your hair to insure you can clearly see your scalp, continue by inspecting your neck, chest and torso. Women should check under their breasts as well. Lift arms and examine under arms, elbows and front and back sides of arms. Proceed by turning your back toward the full length mirror and use a small hand held mirror to inspect your neck, shoulders, back, buttocks and back of your legs. To complete the exam, sit in a chair and examine your genitals, front side of your legs and feet. While examining your feet, include the top, soles, toenails and in between each of your toes.
If you notice any suspect moles or abnormal growths, don’t hesitate to schedule a professional skin examination with your physician or a dermatologist. Another good idea is to take monthly notes during your self-skin exams to help you track your findings and also track any changes or irregularities in your skin. Take note of the location, size, color, shape and any other additional specifics about the moles or abnormal growths you detect. Saving the records and bringing them with you to your annual professional skin examination will help you accurately report your findings.
Test your knowledge! Here’s a quick quiz to help you discover how well you can spot melanomas (created by the Mayo Clinic.)
Please follow these steps for your full body skin exam:
- Print off this Infographic from the AAD and keep as reference when conducting your monthly self full body skin examinations.
- Now, please print off the AAD’s Mole Map and use this every month to track any concerning lesions you have. Bring these forms into your dermatologist for your next visit. Because the more you help us, the more you help yourself!
Put monthly reminders on your phone, your email account, your bathroom mirror, … to remind you to spend the couple minutes every month to look your skin over. If male, use this time to do a testicular exam; if female, please do your breast exams at this time.