Early Detection of Skin Cancer
The most important aspect of successful skin cancer treatment is early detection. A yearly skin examination by a dermatologist is a great starting place. But medical studies confirm that you can help detect skin cancer early if you will take the time to look at your own skin and perform a self-examination. Once a month, take a few minutes to look at your skin.
Tips for Performing a Self-Examination:
- Take the time to closely examine your skin, noticing all moles and other spots.
- Do it regularly monthly is ideal.
- Remember to check all of your skin, even places that do not get much sun.
- You may need a mirror or two to see areas on your backside.
What to look for
Any new mole.
New moles in adults are suspicious. It doesn’t matter if it is a flat freckle or a raised bump, if it is new it should be examined by a dermatologist. This applies only to adults because it is normal for children to get new moles.
Any changing mole.
Any change in the shape, symmetry, or color of a mole is suspicious. Again, flat freckles or brown spots are included here. Moles that show recent changes in shape or color are worrisome.
Pimples that won’t go away.
If you have had a small pink/red bump on your face or chest for 1-2 months and it will not go away, it may be an early skin cancer.
Rough bumps on the face or arms.
Skin cancers sometimes appears as hard rough bumps that slowly get bigger. These are often on the face, hands, and arms.
Any sore that bleeds with little or no trauma is suspicious. A common scenario is a spot that bleeds after simply washing your face. Any ulcer or sore that will not heal completely in 1-2 months is also suspicious.
Suspicious moles are irregular in shape and have multiple colors. Normal moles will have a symmetric, even shape with a uniform color.
Of course, many moles will not fit nicely into one of these two categories, and may require a close inspection. Please do not hesitate to ask us specifically about any mole and why we think it is either suspicious and worthy of a biopsy, or not concerning.
A common misconception is that if a mole is flat instead of a raised bump, that it is a freckle instead of a mole, and therefore not a concern. In fact, most melanomas start out flat like freckles. The key is in the shape and coloring, not in whether or not it is raised.
Please take the extra time to examine your skin monthly. We have many patients who successfully detect their own skin cancers this way. It takes a little practice, but it is worth the investment of time and energy. A self-examination is not meant to replace a yearly skin examination by a dermatologist, but when the two are used together, they are very effective at detecting skin cancer early.