Skin cancer is highly curable if caught and treated early. When skin cancer is in the early stages, you have the best chance to see the developing changes. That is why you should check your skin monthly, especially if you are at a higher risk. You don’t need any fancy equipment to do it either, just your eyes, a full-length, and handheld mirror. Skin self-checks are essential because skin cancer can be deadly, and you don’t want to risk it.
What to Look For
Skin cancer appears in many shapes or forms, so you need to know the warning signs associated with them. You want to keep an eye out for anything new, changing, or unusual:
- Growth: Any growth that increases in size and appears pearly, transparent, tan, brown, black, or multicolored.
- Mole: A birthmark or brown spot that increases in size, thickness, color, or texture changes or is bigger than a pencil eraser.
- Spot: A spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab, or bleed.
- Open Sore: An open sore that isn’t healed in 3 weeks.
How to do a Monthly Skin Self Check
The first time you do your self-check, spend time going over the entire surface. You should be in a well-lit room with a full-length mirror. A family member or using a handheld mirror can help you see those harder areas. Oh, and you should be undressed. Check your entire body from scalp to toes in the following sections:
- Face: Pay special attention to nose, lips, mouth, and ears.
- Scalp: Section hair (if needed) and use a smaller mirror to check the back.
- Hands and forearms: Don’t forget your palms, in between fingers, and under nails.
- Arms and underarms: Begin at the elbow go up front and back of both arms.
- Torso: Check the neck, chest, and torso. Women will need to lift and check under each breast.
- Upper back: Using a hand mirror, scan the back of your neck, upper back, and shoulders.
- Lower back: Check the lower back, buttocks, and backs of both legs, using the hand mirror.
- Legs: Prop both legs up and use a hand mirror to examine the genitals. Check the front and sides of both legs, thigh to shin. Then, finish with ankles and feet, including soles, toes, and nails (without polish).
Early Intervention with Your Dermatologist
Reduced immunity, prior history of skin cancer, and strong family history of skin cancer are some of the factors that increase your chances of developing skin cancer. Also, having five or more sunburns doubles your risk for melanoma. If you have any of these risk factors or find something concerning, talk to your dermatologist about the frequency of checks and an annual exam.
To learn more about your options or schedule your yearly check with our board-certified dermatologists, call (210) 255-8447 or request an appointment online.