Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, with about one in every five people in the U.S. developing some form of skin cancer in their lifetime. Each year, there are more new cases of skin cancer than cases of lung, colon, prostate, and breast cancer combined. The first step in battling skin cancer is awareness and prevention, so conducting a simple self exam at home will help you catch any potential signs of skin cancer early.
At Peninsula Radiation Oncology Center, we are passionate about helping all of our patients live a longer, healthier life, which is why we’ve put together this guide on how to conduct a skin cancer self-exam.
Skin Cancer Self Exam - Step By Step
What You Need
For your self-exam, you’re going to need a few things that will help you check every part of your body, since it’s important that you conduct a thorough exam. Make sure you have the following:
- Full Length Mirror
- Hand Mirror
- A Chair
- Good Lighting
While this is a self exam, checking areas like your back can be difficult, so if you have the option, ask a family member or partner for help.
What Are You Looking For?
In order to conduct an effective skin cancer self exam, you need to know what you’re looking for. Here is a quick list of some of the most common warning signs of skin cancer:
- Skin growth that has increased in size. Can appear tan, black, brown, multicolored, or translucent.
- A mole, birthmark, or brown spot that has changed color, increased in size, or changed in texture. Also, if the spot is larger than a pencil eraser, it could be a warning sign.
- A sore that itches, hurts, or bleeds. Also, if you have a sore that doesn’t seem to heal.
If you notice any of these things during your self examination, schedule an appointment with your doctor right away for a thorough exam.
Examining The Head
Starting at the top, get close to your mirror and closely examine every part of your face and neck. Make sure you spend time checking the lip, nose, and ear areas thoroughly. You should also check your scalp, which can be made easier by using a brush or comb to slowly move your hair while you check the scalp. Tilt your head up and check under your chin and the rest of your neck.
The Torso & Arms
Check your entire torso, from your shoulders down to your midsection. For women, don’t forget to examine the area under the breasts (link to breast cancer self-exam blog?). Check your arms all the way down to your hands, making sure to look in between the fingers, both the front and backside of each hand, as well as under your fingernails. Don’t forget to check your underarms as well.
Legs, Feet, & Genitals
Take a seat in front of the mirror and start examining your legs thoroughly, front and back. When you get to your feet, do just like you did with your fingers and check under the nails, between the toes, and on the bottoms of your feet. You should also check your genitals and the surrounding area.
Here’s where having a friend to help is beneficial, but if you don’t have anyone to help, you can check your back using the full length mirror and another hand mirror. Follow the same instructions as above as you scan the back of your body from top to bottom.
At Peninsula Radiation Oncology Center, we specialize in providing our patients with the highest quality radiation cancer therapy, including skin cancer treatment. If you have any questions about skin cancer, the signs to look for, or about how to conduct a self exam, feel free to contact us today.