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How to Detect Skin Cancer

By August 15, 2011 No Comments

How do I look for skin cancer?

Start by performing a self-exam
If you are a “good patient” who goes to visit your Primary Care Physician yearly, then ask your doctor to perform a skin examination during your annual physical. Additionally, you should perform a self-check at least several times throughout the year. If you have a history of:  extensive sun exposure and sunburn easily, have  fair skin color or freckles, a family member who has been diagnosed with  melanoma, or other risk factors — you should be especially attentive by examining your skin monthly. Nonetheless people of all races, skin colors, gender, and ages can be at risk for getting skin cancer. Stressing the importance of self-skin-examine on a regular basis is crucial.

How do I perform a self-exam? 
Examining your skin is easy and doesn’t take much time at all. All you need is good light, a hand-held and full-length mirror, and a comb. . As you look at each part of your body, study the pattern, location and size of blemishes on your skin so that you can rapidly become aware of any changes that occur. The purpose is to get to know your skin, so that you’ll be able to notice anything of potential concern. Cancerous growths may appear anywhere, including areas not usually exposed to sunlight, and be aware that some skin cancers are not caused by the sun at all.

Here are the steps to follow:

1. After a bath or shower, examine your face and head, using both mirrors for hard-to-see areas. Use a comb to check your scalp under your hair. Check your ears, under your chin, and your neck.

2. Examine the tops and bottoms of your hands, including in between your fingers and your fingernails.

3. Examine your forearms, upper arms, underarms, chest and belly. Women will need to check the skin under their breasts.

4. Sit down and check your thighs, shins, tops and soles of your feet, toes, in between your toes, and toenails. (60% of melanoma cases in African-Americans occur on the feet, so be sure to examine your feet as well.)

5. With the hand-held mirror, check your calves and the backs of your thighs, lower back, buttocks and genital area, upper back, and back of your neck. (The legs and upper back are the areas most prone to melanoma, so be thorough.)

What exactly should I look for?

Here are some more specific warning signs:

  • new red or darker colored flaky patches or nodules
  • new firm, flesh-colored bumps
  • bleeding sores that don’t heal after 2 to 3 weeks
  • change in the size, shape, color, or feel of a mole (look for specific features that may be indicative of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, such as: a mole that is painful or itchy, larger than 6 millimeters across, irregularly shaped, multi-colored, or with an ragged border)                                                                                                                                                                                                                           What should I do if I see something suspicious?

If you’re in question, or have concerns about a new mole, lesion, freckle, or bump, that has appeared on your skin, contact your Plastic Surgeon, Primary Care Physician or Dermatologist as soon as possible. Your doctor will examine the area in question closely, possibly using a dermascope (a special skin microscope) or obtaining a biopsy (a sample of the skin). It is also important to remain calm, since the majority of moles and blemishes are not cancerous.

If you are looking to have your skin examined, or have a lesion, mole, or bump in question …call us today to schedule your exam!!! 310.853.5147

Often times, your *health insurance will cover these services *depending on your benefits and condition.