How to Do a Self-Exam for Skin Cancer

Do you know how to do a self-exam for skin cancer? It could save your life. When skin cancer is caught and treated early, it is highly curable. During the early stages of cancer development, you are the most likely person to see changes. Self-exams are simple, but they could literally save your life.

For this reason, we recommend that you check your skin from head to toe once a month. Here’s how to perform a self-exam for skin cancer.

ABC’s of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer can appear in all different shapes and sizes, so it’s important to understand the warning sings associated with melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, Merkel cell carcinoma, and other rare skin cancer. You should also be familiar with precancerous actinic keratosis.

If you see something NEW, UNUSUAL, or CHANGING, you need to get checked by a dermatologist right away. It could be nothing, but it could be skin cancer. And remember that early detection and diagnosis saves lives.

How to Do a Self-Exam for Skin Cancer

So, what are the ABCs of skin cancer?

  • Asymmetry. If you a have a mole or spot that is asymmetrical, meaning that it doesn’t match on both sides, it should be checked by a dermatologist.
  • Border. Uneven, scalloped, or notched edges.
  • Color. Multiple colors are a warning sign. Instead of one color, it may have several different shades.
  • Diameter or Dark. Dark lesions, or lesions bigger than 6mm (about the size of a pencil eraser) should be checked.
  • Evolving. Any change in size, color, shape, or elevation, or any new symptoms like bleeding, itching, or crusting is a warning sign.

How to Do a Self-Exam

  1. Face. Examine your face, paying close attention to your nose, mouth, lips, and the front and back sides of your ears.
  2. Scalp. Thoroughly inspect your scalp using a mirror. If you need help, ask a friend or family member.
  3. Hands. Look at the palms, backs, between the fingers and underneath the fingernails.
  4. Arms. Stand in front of a mirror and check your arms. Look at the front and back of your forearms, all sides of your upper arms, and your underarms.
  5. Torso. Focus on the neck, chest, and torso. Remember to lift breasts and examine the underside.
  6. Upper and Lower Back. Turn your back to a full-length mirror and use a hand mirror to inspect the back of your neck, shoulders, upper back, and upper arms. Then scan your lower back, buttocks, and backs of both legs.
  7. Legs. Sit down and use a hand mirror to examine your genitals. Then check the front and sides of both legs. Finish by scanning the ankles, feet, and toes.

Skin Cancer Specialist in Chevy Chase

As we mentioned before, early detection is crucial when it comes to curing skin cancer. If you notice any of the changes or new symptoms listed above, it’s imperative that you see a dermatologist ASAP.

Dr. Cronin is a nationally recognized board-certified dermatologist and skin cancer specialist. She is trained in MOHS micrographic surgery and reconstructive surgery, giving her the ability to treat your skin cancer with the highest cure rate, and least scarring methods available. Contact Cronin Dermatology and Skin Cancer Institute today to schedule an appointment.