How to Do a Self-Exam for Skin CancerSeptember 1, 2023
If you’re anything like most Chicagoans, you spent a large bulk of your summer outside. After our long winters, the warm weather is precious. That being said, extended periods of time outdoors expose you to harmful UV rays. Too much exposure can lead to skin damage, and even skin cancer. That is why, especially after the summer months, learning how to do a self-exam for skin cancer is important for keeping yourself safe.
Remember that a self-exam cannot replace an in-person exam with a licensed dermatologist. However, what it can do is help you identify a potential problem before it advances into something more serious. Through early detection, most types of skin cancer can be treated simply by removing the spot.
How to do a self-exam for skin cancer
You don’t need any special equipment to examine your skin. Everything you need, you likely already have at your home: a full-body mirror, a hand mirror, and a comb. Make sure you complete your exam in a well-lit room so you can clearly see your skin. If you’ve never done a self-exam before, spend some extra time taking note of your already existing moles, freckles, and blemishes. If they change, you will be able to let your doctor know.
For each exam, follow the same set of steps so you don’t have to worry about forgetting to check a spot. You may also want to have a chair nearby, as examining certain portions of your body may be easier sitting.
- Start by examining your body in a full-length mirror. Turn to the left and right with your arms raised.
- Take a closer look at your underarms, forearms, and palms. Turn them in several directions to get a view at different angles, and look down as well as in the mirror.
- Look at your legs, the soles of your feet, and between your toes. This may be easier to do sitting, but don’t forget to look at the backs of your legs in the mirror.
- Use a hand-held mirror to look at your face, scalp, back, and buttock. Do so by angling the mirror to reflect in your full-length mirror. This may be a place where it would be easier to ask for the assistance of a friend or family member.
- Use a comb to better look at the scalp under your hair. Again, the help of another may be easiest here.
What to look for
Skin cancer doesn’t have one, uniform look, and it doesn’t have one core symptom either. A spot may be itchy or painful, while other spots might feel completely normal. It is most likely to appear on portions of the body that receive the most sun—such as the face, neck, head, and arms—but it can occur on any body part.
- New, expanding, or changing growth on the skin
- A mole that is new
- An existing mole that changes in size, shape, or color, or has irregular borders
- Rough and/or scaly red patch that may crust or bleed
- Wart-like growths
- A sore that doesn’t heal for several weeks
Though the end of summer is a great reminder to do a self-exam, you should really perform them on a monthly basis. This will allow you to catch any potential changes as early as possible. Don’t self-diagnose a questionable area—simply use it as a point of reference for concerns.
What should I do if something looks suspicious?
If you’re worried about a particular mark or patch of skin, the best thing to do is make an appointment with your dermatologist as soon as possible. Don’t try to research the mark on your own, as you may worry yourself over the wrong thing.
At the appointment, your doctor will examine the spot, as well as the rest of your body. If they agree the spot is a point of concern, they may order a biopsy, which means removal and examination under a microscope. These tests will determine how you move forward.
Help from a home caregiver
Maintaining your health is essential—and an at-home caregiver can help you do just that. Whether you need assistance cooking healthy meals or help with showering, these professionals help you take care of the necessary activities of daily living.
Home Care Powered by AUAF would be happy to offer you that support. For more information on our home care services, give us a call at 773-274-9262. We would love to discuss our program with you.
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