The Skin Cancer Foundation urges everyone to perform monthly checks for any signs of cancer, but how can you tell what is normal and what could be an issue? Understanding and recognizing the early warning signs of skin cancer are both integral to an early diagnosis and swift treatment.
Going to see your dermatologist on a regular or annual basis is great for maintaining good skin health. But a lot can happen in between your appointments, and that’s why it’s so important to monitor any changes to your skin by doing at-home skin checks.
At Doctors Approach, we can treat a variety of dermatology concerns including skin cancer, but we always stress the importance of prevention. Catching any skin issues in the early stages can help better treat them before they get worse. Here are some important things to keep an eye out for during your at-home skin checks. If you have any questions or concerns, contact Doctors Approach. We’re here to help in any way we can.
Changes to Beauty Marks
If you have freckles, moles or other beauty marks, they need to be watched very carefully for any changes. Look for the mark becoming more raised than before, changing color or the edges changing shape. In some cases, the mole may also crust over, itch, bleed or not heal after a reasonable period of time. It’s also not uncommon for cancerous moles to change color and not match all the other marks you have. If you see any of these changes to your beauty marks, it’s essential you have them checked by a dermatologist as soon as possible.
A Painful or Itchy Spot
Cancer doesn’t need a beauty mark to get started. Sometimes, a spot will show up on skin that was previously normal and unblemished. The key to distinguishing cancer from common scrapes, bug bites and scratches is that cancer refuses to heal. If you’ve had that pimple on your shoulder for two weeks and it still hasn’t healed up, it’s time to make an appointment. This is especially true if the spot is developing a nodule or lump beneath it.
Changes to Pigmentation
For those who have vitiligo, psoriasis, cafe au lait marks or port wine stains, beware any changes to the difference in pigmentation. It’s an excellent idea to photograph these marks for your reference, as this will make changes easier to spot right away.
A Word Concerning Location
Much attention is paid to the correlation between sun exposure and skin cancer, but cancer doesn’t necessarily strike in areas you’d expect. Use a mirror to check your back, down the backs if your legs and the backs of your arms. Look between your toes, all around your genitals and between your legs. Feel through your hair, if it’s long, for any changes to your scalp. Finally, don’t forget to look behind your ears and at the nape of your neck.
Checking yourself over for skin cancer is an important aspect of early detection. Armed with the knowledge of what you should be looking for, your self-exams will be much faster and more effective.