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How to Perform a Self Exam for Early Melanoma Detection

Keeping up with the state of your skin could save your life. Melanoma can often be found early when it is most likely to be cured. Self exams play a critical part in detecting skin changes early. Take time each month to examine yourself from head to toe.

Self exams should be done in a well-lit room, ideally in front of a full-length mirror. Use a hand-held mirror to examine areas that are hard to see, such as the backs of your thighs. It’s important to examine even your palms and soles, scalp, ears, nails, and back. A friend or family member might assist you, especially for those hard-to-see areas, such as your scalp and back.

What to Look For

Any new or unusual sore, lump, blemish, marking, or change in the way an area of the skin looks or feels may be a sign of skin cancer or a warning that it might occur.

Normal Moles

A normal mole is usually an evenly colored brown, tan, or black spot on the skin. It can be either flat or raised, round or oval. Moles are generally less than about ¼ inch across (about the width of a pencil eraser). A mole can be present at birth, or it can appear during childhood or young adulthood. New moles that appear later in life should be checked by a doctor.

Once a mole has developed, it will usually stay the same size, shape, and color for many years. Some moles may eventually fade away.

Most people have moles, and almost all moles are harmless. But it is important to recognize changes in a mole – its size, shape, or color – that can suggest a melanoma might be developing.

Possible Signs and Symptoms of Melanoma

The most important warning sign for melanoma is a new spot on the skin or a spot that is changing in size, shape, or color. Another sign is a spot that looks different from all of the other spots on your skin.

The ABCDE rule is a simple, helpful guide to help you identify the typical signs of melanoma. Be on the lookout and tell your doctor about spots that have any of the following features:

  • A is for Asymmetry: If you draw a line through this mole, the two halves do not match.
  • B is for Border: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
  • C is for Color: The color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
  • D is for Diameter: The spot is larger than 6 millimeters across (about ¼ inch – the size of a pencil eraser), although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this.
  • E is for Evolving: Any change in size, shape, color, elevation. New symptoms such as bleeding, itching or crusting.

Some melanomas do not fit the ABCDE rule. Tell your doctor about any changes or new spots on your skin, or growths that look different from the rest of your moles. Other skin changes to be aware of:

  1. A sore that does not heal
  2. Spread of pigment from the border of a spot to surrounding skin
  3. Redness or a new swelling beyond the border
  4. Change in sensation – itchiness, tenderness, or pain
  5. Change in the surface of a mole – scaliness, oozing, bleeding, or the appearance of a bump or nodule

Interested in finding out if you are at risk for melanoma? Contact Zimmet Vein & Dermatology today to schedule an appointment.

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