Find it. Treat it. Beat it. A Guide to Melanoma Self-Screening The earlier you can find cancer, the better your odds are to beat it – and it’s no different with melanoma. While yearly skin screenings are recommended for those over the age of 25, it’s never too early to start performing monthly self-screenings. In honor of Melanoma Awareness Month, here’s a guide to skin cancer self-screening. What You’re Looking For Melanoma is basically a mole gone awry. When identifying potential trouble spots, remember your ABCDEs. Asymmetry – If you draw a line through the middle of the benign mole, the two halves should roughly match. If not, it may be a sign of melanoma. Borders – The edges of a benign mole are smooth and even. Scalloped, rough, or notched edges are indicative of early stage melanoma. Color – Most benign moles are fairly even colored. Melanoma may be multiple shades of brown, black, red, white, or even blue. Diameter – Benign moles are typically smaller than malignant ones. If its diameter is greater than a pencil eraser, it may be a sign that it is growing or changing. Larger moles that have been stable for an extended period of time isn’t typically cause for concern; though continued observation is recommended. Evolution – Part of the reason regular self-screenings are effective is because you’ll more easily notice when moles grow in size, shape, or color – indicating Melanoma. What You’ll Need
- A well-lit room
- A full length mirror
- A handheld mirror
- A comb
What To Do Strip Down – Melanoma can grow in places that don’t see regular exposure to sunlight. So get ready to become intimately familiar with every inch of your skin – head, toe and every nook and cranny in between. Head and Scalp – Using a handheld mirror, examine all exposed parts of your head, neck, and face. Use a comb to part your hair and thoroughly check your scalp. Chest and Torso – Working your way down, focus on your chest and torso. Ladies, don’t forget to check under your breasts. Arms and Hands – In a full-length mirror, examine your arms, elbows, armpits and hands – including your nails. Back – Using your handheld mirror, check your back, shoulders and buttocks, as well as the backs of your arms, neck and legs. Legs and More – Examine the fronts and backs for your legs; the tops, soles, heels of your feet and toenails; and last but not least, grab your handheld mirror and check your genitals. What To Do If You Find Something Go see your dermatologist. He or she will closely examine the skin with specialized magnification and decide from there whether a biopsy is needed. “The most important step in melanoma treatment is scheduling a skin check and getting a biopsy,” says Dr. Lisa Campbell, board-certified dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at the Forefront Dermatology Appleton, De Pere, Marinette, and Hudson clinics. “The earlier melanoma is discovered, the better the outcome. Most thin melanomas require only removing the spot plus some normal skin around it with no additional tests or cancer treatment. Even if the melanoma is bigger or deeper in the skin, there are new treatment options and a lot more hope than just a few years ago.” Regular self-examinations coupled with a yearly physical with your dermatologist can catch melanoma at its earliest, most treatable stages – and may very well save your life. Should you find a troubling spot, the skin care experts at Forefront Dermatology have the advanced training to make sure you have an accurate diagnosis, innovative treatment options and, most importantly, the best possible outcome. To find a Forefront dermatologist near you and schedule your skin screening, visit the Locations page.