According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, everybody should do routine head-to-toe skin checks to look for signs of skin cancer and other conditions. Most people should conduct their skin checks once a month, but people with a history of certain skin conditions may need to perform skin checks more often.
What does the self-examination involve?
The patient should see their doctor for the first head-to-toe skin examination. The doctor can identify moles, freckles or spots that need to be removed or will at least bear watching. The doctor can also teach the patient how to conduct the exam himself or herself. A head-to-toe skin examination typically takes 10 minutes but can take longer if the patient has many moles.
To conduct the skin examination, the patient will need a full-length mirror, a hand mirror, bright lights, a blow dryer, two chairs or stools, a body map, and a pencil. The patient will use the hair dryer to expose the parts of the scalp they are examining, and they will start with their head and face and work down. They will have to sit while examining the lower part of their body and use the other chair or stool to prop up the leg they are examining. The patient will have to be extremely thorough and examine such body parts as their fingernails, soles of their feet, and underarms. Skin cancer can occur anywhere.
The patient should note the results on a body map which is a drawing of a human body. On the body map, the patient will make a dot corresponding to every freckle, mole, scaly patch, etc. Beside the dot, they will note the date of examination, the spot’s approximate size, and its color. During subsequent examinations, the patient should note any changes on the spot. The body map can be downloaded from the Skin Cancer Foundation’s website.
When is it time to call a doctor?
Skin cancer is a common cancer, and it can be treated if spotted early. A patient should, therefore, report the following results to their dermatologist:
- A new spot of any description that appears on someone over 21 years old.
- An open sore that hasn’t healed after three weeks.
- Spots that are at least as big around as pencil eraser.
- Spots that change color. People who have conditions like psoriasis, vitiligo, or port wine stains should be especially watchful for any changes in pigmentation.
- Any change in a spot. If it gets bigger, starts itching or bleeding, or develops a crust, it needs to be examined.
- A spot that looks different from all of the other spots on the patient’s body should be checked out.
- A spot that is asymmetrical or has irregular borders needs a doctor’s attention.
If you have any of these results, contact us at Doctor’s Approach so we can discuss what can be done to help. Our doctors will be able to answer any questions or concerns you might have. Schedule a consultation today.