Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the world, but unlike other cancers, you can see it, so you can do something about it.
Learning about how to detect early signs of skin cancer can make a lot of difference in reducing a patient’s morbidity and mortality from the skin cancers. When caught and treated early, skin cancers are highly curable. And in the early stages of skin cancer development, you’re the one with the best chance to see changes. That’s why we recommend that you examine your skin head-to-toe every 3-4 months. It’s a simple but powerful way to look at yourself with a new focus that can save you.
The risk of skin cancers depends on a number of factors including inheritance, Fitzpatrick skin type, history of unprotected sun exposure in the first 20 years of life, your occupation and hobbies.
Early skin cancer detection
Elderly patients: Some elderly patients who spent their childhood and earning age outdoors when there was no awareness of sun damage, usually get a lot of skin cancers and it is advised to have their skin checked professionally every 3-4 monthly and self checkup every month.
Past history: Patients with a past history of melanoma or dysplastic nevus syndrome are recommended to have a professional skin checkup every 6 months and self checkup every 1-2 months.
General people: For the rest of the patients, it’s okay to have a skin checkup once a year or once every 2 years provided they do their own checkup every 3-4 months.
The common types of skin cancers include Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) and Melanoma.
Elixir @ Hunter is a skin cancer clinic in Maitland, NSW. Book your consultation today!
How to do your own skin checkup
It’s also important to remember that technology can be a powerful aid when checking your skin. If you can have a loved one take photos of suspicious spots, it can help your physician track any changes when you head in for your skin exam.
If you see something NEW, CHANGING or UNUSUAL, get it checked with a skin cancer doctor right away. It could be skin cancer. Regarding the changing skin lesions, if you see a change appearing overnight or in the last couple of days, it is usually inflammatory and should subside within a week. In case the changes continue over 2-3 weeks, it’s better to consult a skin cancer doctor.
- A growth that increases in size and appears pearly, transparent, tan, brown, black, or multicoloured.
- A mole, birthmark or brown spot that increases in size, thickness, changes colour or texture, or is bigger than a pencil eraser.
- A spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab or bleed.
- An open sore that does not heal within three weeks.
- Look for anything new, changing or unusual on both sun-exposed and sun-protected areas of the body. Melanomas commonly appear on the legs of women, and the number one place they develop on men is the trunk. Keep in mind, though, that melanomas can arise anywhere on the skin, even in areas where the sun doesn’t shine.
- Look for ABCDE signs of melanoma – ABCDE stands for asymmetry, border, colour, diameter and evolving. These are the characteristics of skin damage that doctors look for when diagnosing and classifying melanomas.
A is for Asymmetry. Most melanomas are asymmetrical. If you draw a line through the middle of the lesion, the two halves don’t match, so it looks different from a round to oval and symmetrical common mole.
B is for Border. Melanoma borders tend to be uneven and may have scalloped or notched edges, while common moles tend to have smoother, more even borders.
C is for Colour. Multiple colours are a warning sign. While benign moles are usually a single shade of brown, a melanoma may have different shades of brown, tan or black. As it grows, the colours red, white or blue may also appear.
D is for Diameter or Dark. While it’s ideal to detect a melanoma when it is small, it’s a warning sign if a lesion is the size of a pencil eraser (about 6 mm, or ¼ inch in diameter) or larger. Rare, there are amelanotic melanomas which are skin coloured or very light or colorless.
E is for Evolving. Any change in size, shape, colour or elevation of a spot on your skin, or any new symptom in it, such as bleeding, itching or crusting, may be a warning sign of melanoma.
Steps to examine yourself in front of a mirror.
- Examine your face Especially your nose, lips, mouth and ears — front and back.
- Inspect your scalp Thoroughly inspect your scalp, using a blow-dryer and mirror to expose each section to view. Get a friend or family member to help, if you can.
- Check your upper limbs Palms and backs, between the fingers and under the fingernails. Continue up the wrists to examine both the front and back of your forearms. Check the elbows and scan all sides of your upper arms.
- Inspect your torso Next, focus on the neck, chest and torso. Lift the breasts to view the undersides
- Scan your back With your back to the full-length mirror, use the hand mirror to inspect the back of your neck, shoulders, upper back. Scan your lower back, buttocks and backs of both legs
- Inspect your legs Sit down; prop each leg in turn on the other stool or chair. Use the hand mirror to examine the genitals. Check the front and sides of both legs, thigh to shin. Then, finish with ankles and feet, including soles, toes and nails.