May is Melanoma Awareness Month, making it a great time to educate yourself and your loved ones of the importance of skin cancer screening.
Did you know that learning how to do a simple self-exam could save your life?
Early Detection of Melanoma is CRITICAL!
Early detection is CRITICAL in determining your chances for curing melanoma and other skin cancers, so in addition to scheduling periodic skin cancer screenings with your dermatologist, you should also perform monthly self-examinations to identify new or changing spots on your skin.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “Early detection makes a difference! There is a 99% 5-year survival rate for patients in the U.S. whose melanoma is detected early. The survival rate drops to 65% if the disease reaches the lymph nodes and 25% if it spreads to distant organs.”
When was your last skin cancer exam with your dermatologist? Last year? Two years ago? Maybe longer … or maybe never?
When was the last time you did a self-examination of your skin? I mean more than a cursory look over?
What to Look For
Do you know how to identify suspicious moles?
No … not the fedora-and-trench-coat-wearing kind of suspicious!
I’m talking about the kind of mole you’re not quite sure about. The one that has you asking your spouse, partner, or cat … “Does this look right to you?” Or yourself, “Hmmmm … wonder how long THAT’s been there?”
Maybe it’s a new mole you haven’t noticed before or an “old friend” that’s changed color, shape, or texture.
THAT kind of suspicious!
Most moles are harmless, but not always, so you always need to be on the lookout for anything new, changing, or unusual ALL over your body.
There’s a simple way to remember what to look for, just remember A-B-C-D-E.
Signs of skin cancers like basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma can be recognized by using the A-B-C-D-E acronym.
These guidelines give you specific things to look for to detect early signs of melanoma.
A is for ASYMMETRY - one half looks different than the other
B is for BORDER - the edges are irregular, ragged, or blurred
C is for COLOR - variations or change
D is for DIAMETER - moles larger than ¼ inch (the size of a pencil eraser)
E is for EVOLVING - any changes in size, shape, color, texture
The Self-exam Checklist
In the early stages of skin cancer development, you're the one most likely to notice the subtle changes, so it’s recommended that you perform a self-exam from head-to-toe every month.
You’ll need some simple supplies you probably have in your home:
- Bright light
- Full-length mirror
- Hand mirror
- Two chairs
- A blow dryer
- Pen & Paper
Keep a pen & paper handy to take notes on any areas you want to keep an eye on and jot down questions you’d like to discuss with your dermatologist at your next appointment.
Start by standing in front of a full-length mirror in a well-lit room, then inspect the following areas very thoroughly:
- Face - nose, lips, mouth, ears (both front and back). Use both mirrors to get a clear view.
- Scalp - Using the blow dryer and mirror, expose and check each section of your scalp. You may need a friend or family member to help.
Hands & forearms - Check your palms, back of hands, between the fingers, and under the nails.
- Upper arms - Begin at the elbows and check all sides of your upper arms, including the underarms.
- Torso - Closely inspect your neck, chest, and torso. Lift breasts to check undersides.
- Upper back - Turn your back to face the full-length mirror. Using the hand mirror to view your reflection in the full-length mirror, check the back of your neck, shoulders, upper back.
- Lower back - Still using both mirrors, inspect your lower back, buttocks, and the backs of your thighs.
- Legs - Sit on a chair and prop one leg up on the other chair. Use the hand mirror to examine your genitals. (Yes, melanoma can appear even where the sun doesn’t shine!) Check the front and sides of the leg, thigh to shin. Then your ankles & feet, toes, and nails.
That’s it! You’re finished!
If you didn’t identify any of the A-B-C-D-E warning signs, give yourself a pat on the back and go put a reminder for your next self-exam on your calendar.
If you’re not quite sure about a spot, take photos for comparison over your next several self-exams.
If you did notice warning signs, call your dermatologist promptly to schedule an appointment.
See your Dermatologist Annually
As important as they are, self-exams are NOT a replacement for seeing your dermatologist.
Make sure to schedule a full-body skin exam once a year (or more often if you've ever had skin cancer or you’re at higher risk).
Call the office today to schedule your next appointment. We look forward to providing you with excellent patient-care whether we see you virtually or in the office.
Integrated Dermatology of Tidewater
757-461-1033 (Opt. 1)