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How To Do A Skin Cancer Self-Exam

How To Do A Skin Cancer Self-Exam

Most people know they should regularly check their skin for abnormalities that could be signs of cancer. However, some things are easier said than done. After all, how do you know what you’re looking for or if what you’re seeing may be cause for concern?

Dr. Juan-Carlos Caballero and our team can detect and treat skin cancer at Warrenton Dermatology & Skin Therapy Center in Warrenton, Virginia. 

Early skin cancer detection  increases the chances of successful treatment outcomes — even for the most serious form of skin cancer, melanoma. That’s where regular self-exams come in.

This May, in recognition of National Skin Cancer Awareness Month, Dr. Caballero shares the key steps to performing a skin self-exam, and when you should see a dermatologist.

What you’re looking for in a skin self-exam

Self-exams are a crucial line of defense for detecting skin cancer as early as possible. And performing them regularly can help you become more familiar with your body, making it easier to spot changes that may indicate a potential problem.

Dr. Caballero suggests downloading the body mole map provided by the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) to document your self-exams. This handy strategy makes it even easier to track changes over time.

Common signs of skin cancer include:

It’s also important to note that while skin cancer is most common on areas of the body exposed to sun, it can develop anywhere. That’s why it’s important to check all skin areas, even the skin between your toes, for changes.

Start with your upper body

The most convenient time to check your skin is usually after bathing. Start by facing a large or full-length mirror in a well-lit room, and study your upper body and head, including your face and ears, neck and chest, back and shoulders, and finally, your abdomen. If you have breasts, lift them to check the skin underneath.

After checking your face and torso, examine both sides of your arms, the palms of your hands, and the skin between your fingers and under your nails. Finally, raise your arms and check your armpits — there’s skin there, too!

Move on to your lower body

Once you finish checking your upper body, take a seat and study the fronts of your legs, all the way from your thighs down to your toes and toenails. Then, move on to the bottoms of your feet. To make this easier, try using a hand mirror. You can also use the hand mirror to check the backs of your legs one at a time.

Check your intimate areas and scalp

When you finish with your lower body, it’s time to move on to your more intimate areas, like your buttocks and genitals. It’s often easiest to view these locations with a wall mirror and hand mirror. Remember to lift and move these areas to check concealed skin, too.

Last but not least, try to check your scalp. This location can also be tricky to examine. However, a comb or hair dryer can help separate strands and improve visibility.

When to see an expert about skin changes

If you notice anything that seems concerning, play it safe and see our team. In addition to regular self-exams, Dr. Caballero also recommends scheduling regular skin cancer screenings, especially if you have challenges checking your own body.

Have you checked your skin lately? Take action this May for Skin Cancer Awareness Month: Give us a call at Warrenton Dermatology & Skin Therapy Center today, or use our easy online booking feature to schedule an appointment at your convenience.

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