Self-examinations of the skin are crucial in the early detection of melanoma and skin cancer. If a cancerous growth is detected and removed at an early stage, a patient has a strong chance for a full recovery.
To perform an at-home self-exam of the skin properly, you will need a well-lit room, a full-length mirror and a hand-held mirror. Begin your exam by following these five steps. Standing in front of a full-length mirror, examine your body from all angles (front, back, left and right sides) with arms raised.
- Bend your elbows and look carefully at your forearms, upper underarms and palms.
- Examine the backs of your legs and feet, the spaces between your toes and the soles of your feet.
- Examine the back of your neck and scalp with a hand mirror. Part your hair in sections for a closer look of the scalp.
- Check your back and buttocks with a hand mirror.
During your self-exam, look for moles or other growths with: Asymmetry -- is one half of the mole unlike the other half?
- Border irregularity -- is the border uneven?
- Color variance -- is there a difference in color from one area to another?
- A diameter larger than that of a pencil eraser.
If you discover any unusual growth on your skin, go to a dermatologist. The only way to ensure that the growth is not cancerous is to remove some or all of the suspicious tissue and examine it under a microscope.