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Self-exams crucial in early skin cancer detection

Monday, October 29, 2012

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.

  1. Bend your elbows and look carefully at your forearms, upper underarms and palms.
  2. Examine the backs of your legs and feet, the spaces between your toes and the soles of your feet.
  3. Examine the back of your neck and scalp with a hand mirror. Part your hair in sections for a closer look of the scalp.
  4. 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.

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