Early Detection Starts With You
When caught and treated early, skin cancers are highly curable. And in the early stages of skin cancer development, youre the one with the best chance to see changes.
Thats why we recommend that you examine your skin head-to-toe every month. Its a simple but powerful way to look at yourself with a new focus that can save your life.
How Can You Identify Melanoma
The only way to diagnose melanoma is to book an appointment with a doctor for a skin cancer screening. A doctor can remove some of the tissue from suspicious spots and moles with a biopsy and use the latest equipment to check them for cancer cells. If you detect any changes in your skin colour and texture around a localised area, its recommended that you arrange an examination at your earliest opportunity. If you spend significant amounts of time in the sun, use the best protection and keep a close eye on your skin.
How Do I Make Sure I Don’t Miss Anything
- Stand in front of a full length mirror in a well lit room.
- Start at the top and work your way down your body.
- Begin by using a brush or hairdryer to part your hair into sections so that you can check your scalp.
- Move to your face and neck, not forgetting your ears, nostrils and lips.
- Be sure to check both the top and underneath of your arms. Dont forget your fingernails.
- As you move down your body don’t forget to check places where the sun doesn’t shine! Melanoma can be found in places that do not have exposed skin.
- Ask a partner or family member to check your scalp and back.
- The best way to monitor changes on your skin is by taking photographs every few months and comparing them to identify any changes. React quickly if you see something growing and/or changing.
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When Should I See My Doctor
Its important to check your own skin regularly to find any new or changing spots.
See your doctor or dermatologist straight away if you notice any changes to your skin, such as:
- an ‘ugly duckling’ a spot that looks or feels different to any others
- a spot that changes size, shape, colour or texture over time
- a sore that doesnt go away after a few weeks
- a sore that itches or bleeds
See the ‘ABCDE’ of skin cancer, above.
How To Give Yourself A Skin Cancer Checkup
To detect skin cancer early, examine your skin all over your body and watch for changes over time.
The best time to check your skin is after a shower or bath.
Use a full-length mirror and a hand-held mirror in a room with plenty of light.
If you find anything unusual, see your doctor.
Check yourself from head to toe:
- Look at your face, neck, ears and scalp. You may want to use a comb or a blow dryer to move your hair so that you can see better. You also may want to have a relative or friend check through your hair. It may be hard to check your scalp by yourself.
- Look at the front and back of your body in the mirror. Then, raise your arms and look at your left and right sides.
- Bend your elbows. Look carefully at your fingernails, palms, forearms and upper arms.
- Check the back, front and sides of your legs. Also check the skin all over your buttocks and genital area.
- Sit and closely examine your feet, including your toenails, the soles of your feet and the spaces between your toes.
Learn where your moles are and their usual look and feel. Check for anything new, such as:
- A new mole
- A new red or darker color flaky patch that may be a little raised
- A change in the size, shape, color or feel of a mole
- A sore that doesnt heal
- A new flesh-colored firm bump
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How To Perform A Self Skin Cancer Check
To prevent skin cancer or any similar disease, performing self skin checks is a good habit that will help you detect any cancer sign and consult a skin physician to have it treated on time!
We pray Prevention saves lives and we encourage people to take this practice as a regular part of their health care routine, while still insist on alternate self practiced checks with a professional revision.
This article will guide you all the way through a thorough check to ensure a successful practice:
Are There Complications Of Skin Cancer Treatment
Most skin cancer treatments involve some localised damage to surrounding healthy skin such as swelling, reddening or blistering of the skin where the cancer is removed. Your doctor will explain any specific risks, which may include:
- pain or itching where the skin has been treated, or if lymph nodes have been removed
- scarring or changes to skin colour, after a skin cancer has been removed
- bleeding during or after surgery for more complicated skin cancers
- reactions sometimes your body may react to medicines used in treatment or surgery
- lymphoedema if your lymph nodes have been removed your neck, arm or leg may swell with fluid.
Its best to manage complications as early as possible, so ask your doctor for advice.
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How To Detect Skin Cancer
When it comes to skin cancer, we have some good news and some bad news.
First, the bad news: skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States. Each year, nearly 5 million people are treated for skin cancer, and in the last three decades, more Americans have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined.
But heres the good news: You can often see the early warning signs of skin cancer…without an x-ray or blood test or special diagnostic procedure. If you know what to look for and take action when you see it, most skin cancers can be detected and treated at early stages, when they are most curable.
Even for melanoma, a more dangerous skin cancer type that is more likely to spread to other body areas, the five-year survival rate is 99% for people whose melanoma is detected and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes.
What Should I Look For
Not all skin cancers look the same. In fact, skin cancers can show up in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes they might even look like other skin conditions. Many skin cancers are more common on parts of the body that tend to get more sun, such as the face, head, neck, and arms. But skin cancers can occur anywhere on the body.
Some of the more common ways in which skin cancers can appear include:
- A new, expanding, or changing growth, spot, or bump on the skin
- A sore that bleeds and/or doesnt heal after several weeks
- A rough or scaly red patch, which might crust or bleed
- A wart-like growth
- A mole thats new or changing in size, shape, or color
- A mole with an odd shape, irregular borders, or areas of different colors
But its important to understand that these are not the only ways skin cancer can appear. To learn more about what skin cancer might look like, see:
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Medical Tests For Early Detection
A painless medical technique being used for early detection of melanoma is epiluminescence microscopy, or dermoscopy. Using a handheld device, a doctor can evaluate the patterns of size, shape, and pigmentation in pigmented skin lesions. Among trained, experienced medical professionals, dermoscopy may reduce the number of biopsies of pigmented lesions to rule out melanoma, although more research is needed.
Confocal scanning laser microscopy is another new technology that may improve the examination of possible melanoma lesions. Currently, it is only used in research studies, called clinical trials, and is available in a few major medical centers.
The next section in this guide is Symptoms and Signs. It explains what body changes or medical problems melanoma can cause. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.
How Should I Examine My Skin
You should perform a skin self-exam every month after you have taken a bath or shower. If you are able to do so, ask a close family member or spouse for help looking at places you might have problems seeing, such as your back. Follow these steps:
During this examination, note any moles, blemishes, or birthmarks from the top of your head to your toes. Use a small ruler to measure how big these marks are. Also note changes in color, size, or shape of these markings or any sore that does not heal. Use paper or pictures to document these changes.
If you find any changes in size, color, or shape of any previously noted mole or other skin markings, or if you develop a sore that does not heal, see your physician. This is especially true of itching or bleeding spots. Remember the ABCDEs for moles:
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When Should I Examine My Skin
Skin self-examination should be done often enough to become a habit, but not so often as to feel like a bother. For most people an interval of one to three months is ideal. Photographic screening is generally performed annually.
After the first few times, self-examination should take no longer than a few minutes. You will need help in seeing your back, so enrol your partner or a good friend to help.
Should I Be Checked For Skin Cancer
The best way to protect yourself from skin cancer is to use sun protection and have regular skin examinations by a doctor who is trained in using dermoscopy . If you are at high risk of skin cancer , full skin examinations are recommended every 6 months.
Early detection of skin cancer can improve the chances of successful treatment. You should become familiar with your skin, even the skin that is not normally exposed to the sun, and tell a doctor if you notice any change in shape, colour or size of a mole or freckle, or if you develop a new spot.
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Am I At Risk Of Skin Cancer
Everyone is at some risk of developing skin cancer. Your risk increases as you grow older. Most skin cancers are caused by over-exposure to the suns ultraviolet radiation.
Your risk of skin cancer increases if you:
- have someone in your family who has had skin cancer
- have had bad sunburn before
- have fair skin
- have many moles on your skin
- spend a lot of time outdoors without sun protection or work outdoors
- have used solariums or sun lamps
- have a compromised immune system or are taking immunosuppression medication
You can also use this online calculator to work out your likely risk of melanoma.
What Do Skin Cancers Look Like
There are three main types of skin cancer:
There are many other types of skin cancer, but these are rare.
Because each has many different appearances, it is important to know the early warning signs. Look especially for change of any kind. Do not ignore a suspicious spot simply because it does not hurt. Skin cancers may be painless, but dangerous all the same. If you notice one or more of the warning signs, see a doctor right away.
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What Parts Of My Skin Should I Check
Watch our video on self-examination made in association with Melanoma New Zealand, or check out the self-skin examination guide below.
- The self-skin examination should start with the head and end with the feet.
- The self-skin examination should include the scalp, face, neck, beneath facial hair and trunk.
- On the upper part of the body, the self-skin examination should include the armpits, hands, finger webs and nail beds.
- A mirror should be used to examine the back and skin between the buttocks.
- On the legs, it should include toe webs, toenail beds and soles of the feet.
- Print the body map below to mark the site of any lesions you’re concerned about.
Self skin examination
Top Tips For A Thorough Self Examination
An ideal time to check your skin is after a bath or shower
- Make sure you check your skin in a room with plenty of light
- Use a full-length mirror and a hand-held mirror
- Check yourself thoroughly from head to toe:
- Look at your face, neck, ears, and scalp.
- When checking your scalp use a comb or a blow dryer to move your hair so that you can see better, or ask a relative or friend to check through your hair as it can be hard to check by yourself.
- Look at the front and back of your body in the mirror. Again asking someone to help you check hard to see places like your back can be helpful.
- Make sure you thoroughly check your entire body.
- Remember to raise your arms and check your left and right sides.
Remember to check the following areas where signs and symptoms can go unnoticed:
- Fingernails, and the palms of your hands.
- The genital area, between your buttocks and under breasts.
- Your feet, including your toenails, your soles, and the spaces between your toes.
Basic warning signs to detect:
For images and further guidance on what to look out for seehow to spot skin cancer
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Symptoms That Are Difficult To See Or Touch
Some common cancer symptoms are easy to see. But others can happen inside your body or be a change to how your body works. These changes can be more difficult to spot or describe. But being aware of how you usually feel can help you notice when somethings different.
It might be a cough that lasts for a few weeks, a change in your poo, heartburn that keeps coming back or any other change that isnt normal for you. But whatever the symptom is, when something doesnt feel quite right dont ignore it. Take charge and speak to your doctor.
And its important not to put any unusual changes, aches or pains down to just getting older or assume something is part of another health condition. If its not normal for you, get it checked out.
How Is Skin Cancer Diagnosed
Your doctor or dermatologist will first conduct a physical examination by looking at your skin to identify any suspicious spots using a dermatoscope .
Its not always possible to tell from looking at it whether a spot or lump is cancerous or not. So your doctor or dermatologist may take a skin biopsy. This is where part of, or all of, your spot is removed and sent for further study under a microscope.
Some smartphone apps allow you to photograph your skin and compare photos over time. While they can be a good reminder to check your skin and record details, they shouldnt replace a visit to the doctor. See a doctor if youre concerned about any spots or moles on your skin.
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What Is My Skin Type
Skin types that are more sensitive to ultraviolet radiation burn more quickly and are at a greater risk of skin cancer.
All skin types can be damaged by too much UV radiation. Skin types that are more sensitive to UV radiation burn more quickly and are at a greater risk of skin cancer.
People with naturally very dark skin still need to take care in the sun even though they may rarely, if ever, get sunburnt. The larger amount of melanin in very dark skin provides natural protection from UV radiation. This means the risk of skin cancer is lower.
Eye damage can occur regardless of skin type. High levels of UV radiation have also been linked to harmful effects on the immune system.
Vitamin D deficiency may be a greater health concern for people with naturally very dark skin, as it is more difficult for people with this skin type to make vitamin D.
If You Find Something Suspicious On Your Skin
If youre looking at your skin and see anything that concerns you, especially something that has just appeared or has changed recently, be sure to have it checked by a doctor.
If the doctor suspects you might have skin cancer, he or she will do exams and tests to find out. If you cant see the doctor right away, you might want to take good close-up photos of the area so your doctor can see if the area is changing when you do get an appointment.
Usually the doctors first step is to ask about your symptoms, such as when the mark first appeared, if it has changed in appearance, and if its painful, itchy, or bleeding. You might also be asked about past exposures to causes of skin cancer and if you or anyone in your family has had skin cancer. The doctor will then examine your skin, noting the size, shape, color, and texture of the area in question, and if it is bleeding, oozing, or crusting. The rest of your body may be checked for moles and other spots that could be related to skin cancer.
If you’re being seen by your primary doctor and skin cancer is suspected, you may be referred to a dermatologist, a doctor who specializes in skin diseases, who might use special tools to look at the area more closely.
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