Slip, slop, slap, scan: How self-skin checks could help save your life
Checking your skin regularly for signs of skin cancer is a vital step in early detection. Here’s what to do, and what to look out for.
You probably think you know your body like the back of your hand. But how well do you really know every mole, freckle and blemish on every finger or toe? Would you notice if anything had changed recently?
We’ve all had the know the basics of sun safety – slip, slop, slap, seek shade and slide on a pair of sunglasses – drilled into us from an early age. But there’s one more important step and that is scanning your body for the warning signs of skin cancer.
For a do-it-yourself skin examination, you’ll need a room with good light, a full-length mirror, and an additional hand-held mirror.
Undress completely and check every part of your body – even the parts that don’t get much or any sun exposure, such as between your fingers and toes.
Don’t forget to check your scalp, your armpits, the soles of your feet and your back, using the hand-held mirror for those hard-to-see places. You may also choose to ask a close friend or family member you feel comfortable with for assistance.
What to look for
When it comes to what you’re looking for, follow your ABCs – or rather, your ABCDEs.
That is, any existing moles and freckles, or any new spots, that exhibit:
Asymmetry – i.e. if you folded the shape in half, it wouldn’t match up.
Colour changes or different shades.
Diameter of more than 6mm across.
Evolving (e.g. size, shape, colour, itching) over time?
To see the area more clearly, your doctor may use a hand-held device called a dermatoscope – at some Modern Medical centres we use the Heine Cube. These days, digital dermatoscopes can capture and send images electronically, making it easier for your doctor to create body maps and track any changes that might occur.
Make sure you address any new or changing moles or spots sooner rather than later, and if anything at all appears odd or suspicious don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your GP or dermatologist. Remember: slip, slop, slap, seek, slide – and scan.