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Skin Cancer Self Exam: A Step-By-Step Guide

Northeastern Nevada Radiation Oncology Center - Monday, October 02, 2017


One in every five people in the U.S. will develop a form of skin cancer in their lifetime, making skin cancer the most common type of cancer. In one year, taking all of the new cases of lung, colon, prostate, and breast cancer combined, they still don’t match the number of new cases of skin cancer. In order to combat skin cancer, spreading awareness and strategies for prevention are key. One helpful prevention tool is the self-exam, which you can perform at home to check for signs of skin cancer.

At Northeastern Nevada Radiation Oncology Center, we help give patients hope with professional care that focuses on the road forward to a healthier life. To help you and your family stay healthy, we’ve created this guide to how you can conduct a skin cancer self-exam.

Before You Start Your Self Exam

Gather Some Helpful Tools

The goal of the exam is to check your entire body for signs of skin cancer, which is a tall task if you don’t have the right supplies. Below are a few things that will help you conduct your skin cancer self-exam.

  • Full Length Mirror
  • Hand Mirror
  • A Chair
  • Good Lighting

With these items, you will be able to do the exam yourself, but it may still be difficult to check your back. It may be helpful to ask a family member or partner to help

What To Look For During The Exam

Before you examine yourself, it crucial to know what you’re looking for. Here are some common warning signs of skin cancer that you should be aware of:

  • A skin growth that has increased in size. It can appear tan, black, brown, multicolored, or translucent.
  • A mole, birthmark, or brown spot that has changed color, increased in size, or changed in texture. Also, it it’s a large mark or mole, check to see if it’s bigger than a pencil eraser, since that can be a sign of skin cancer.
  • A sore that itches, hurts, or bleeds. Also, note if a sore doesn't seem to heal for some time.

If you notice any of these things during your self examination, schedule an appointment with your doctor for a thorough exam.

Skin Cancer Self-Exam Steps

Checking The Head

Get close to your mirror so you can see clearly and start scanning yourself starting from the very top of your head down to your neck. Be thorough with your face, checking your lips, nose, ears, and under your chin, since sometimes signs of cancer can hide in the contours and curves of the face. Next, take a comb or brush and start moving your hair aside to examine the scalp.

Checking The Torso & Arms

Starting from where you left off at your neck, continue down into your midsection. Women should check the area under the breasts as well. Using the mirror if necessary, scan down your arms all the way to the tips of your fingers and under the fingernails, while checking the area in between the fingers as well. Check your underarms as well, and push aside underarm hair if necessary for a clear view.

Checking The Legs, Feet, & Genitals

Grab your seat and bring it front of the mirror to start examining your legs on both the front and back. Just like with your hands, check both sides of your feet, in between your toes, and under your toenails. Examine the genitals and surrounding area, moving aside any hair that is in the way to get a good look at the skin.

Checking The Back

If you have someone helping you, here’s where they come in. If you’re doing the exam by yourself, the full length mirror is going to come in handy here. By using another hand mirror and the full length mirror, you can get a clear view of the skin on your back. Just like the other steps, do a careful, thorough scan of your back from top to bottom. If you didn’t check the back of your scalp when checking your head, do it now.

Contact Us With Any Questions About Skin Cancer

At the Northeastern Nevada Radiation Oncology Center, we provide our patients with the highest quality radiation cancer therapy for a wide range of cancers, including skin cancer. Our team consists of friendly and knowledgeable cancer treatment experts that are always here to help, so just contact us with any questions you have about skin cancer, self exams, or cancer treatment.

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