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How to Do Self Examination for Skin Cancer

Early Detection of Skin Cancer Beneficial

Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer with people with fairer skin at a higher risk of falling prey to the disease. Skin cancer is similar to other types of cancer in the sense that if it is diagnosed and caught early, its treatment often bears fruit while if it isn’t, the treatment has a major chance of proving futile. Skin cancer is different to other types of cancer in the sense that while other types of cancer don’t give any ‘visible’ indications of being present in the body, there are significant ‘visible’ symptoms which warn about the development of cancerous cells in the body. 

The statistics about skin cancer reveal a lot about the disease. For starters, it is said that treatment is successful in elimination of the cancer in about 98% of the cases of skin cancer which are diagnosed early. On the other hand, the success rates plummet drastically in cases where the skin cancer has spread to other parts of the body (diagnosed at a very late stage). The success rates for treatment in such cases are around 17-18% only. This shows that early diagnosis is the key as far as treatment of skin cancer is concerned.

This is why self-examination is termed key as early diagnosis is only possible if you would examine yourself and reach out to the doctor in case you find any new skin growth or mole. Unfortunately, most people have no idea about how to do self-examination in order to rule out skin cancer. In a recently published survey, around 95% of the interviewed people did not think that skin cancer has any relation with sun burn (even though sun burn and consistent exposure to sun is one of the main causes of skin cancer). Moreover, around 40% of the interviewed people denied checking their skin for any signs of any disease at all while around 80% of the interviewed people accepted that they didn’t know what skin cancer looks like.

Doing a Self-Examination for Skin Cancer

Dermatologists recommend a monthly full body self exam for everyone. It’s a must for you if: 

• You like getting tans and spend a lot of time under the hot scorching sun

• You are consistently exposed to the sun but don’t use a sunscreen 

• You use sunscreen now but didn’t use it while you were young

• There is a history of skin cancer or other types of cancer in your family 

Even if you have always used sun screen and have no history of skin cancer in your family, you shouldn’t hesitate in doing self-examination from time to time.

Examining your own body for signs of skin cancer is something that you should assign time for.  A full body examination should take a few minutes and you should be very thorough if you fall under the ‘at risk’ category.  

Here is a step-by-step procedure for self-examination.

Locate a bright room where there is a lot of lighting so that you will be able to see everything clearly. Make sure that there is a full-length mirror in the room too. Strip yourself naked and stand in front of the mirror. Start from the very top i.e. your face and then move from the top to the bottom. 
You should start with your face and then take a look at your neck before checking your arms and shoulders. You should then examine your torso and then your legs and feet.  Once you are done with the body checkup, you should pick up a mirror in your hand in order to look under areas which you can’t see naturally. Corners and crevices are places where the signs may be hidden and therefore, it’s important to look everywhere. If you find something concerning here but aren’t sure if it’s a sign, getting a family member or friend to help you out in describing what it looks like won’t be a bad idea. 
Note down the number of moles along with their color, shape, consistency and size. The point is to spot a suspicious mole or lesion and map your body Take snaps of any mole or spot that doesn’t look normal. 

Learn the ABCDE of Skin Cancer

You can tell the difference between a normal mole and a melanoma using the ABCDE checklist. And what is the ABCDE checklist?

Normal vs Melanoma

  A for Asymmetry (if a mole doesn’t look similar in shape overall)
  B for Border (if a mole’s border is inconsistent and not well-defined)
  C for Color (if the color is different from the rest of the moles and if the color has changed in recent time)
  D for Diameter (if the mole is larger than the others or if it has increased in size recently)
  E for Evolution (if it is evolving and causing inflammation or itching)

If you find any of these issues, contact a dermatologist straight away. 


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