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Skin Cancer Explained

The MoleMap guide to checking your skin

5 steps to self examining for skin cancer and melanoma
MoleMap Team
April 27, 2021
7 minutes

Every year, Aus­tralia sees many new­ly diag­nosed can­cer cas­es; around 80 per­cent of them are skin can­cers. Aus­tralia cur­rent­ly has the high­est rate of diag­nosed skin can­cers com­pared to any oth­er coun­try worldwide.

Because of this, many refer to skin can­cer as ​“Australia’s Nation­al Can­cer”, with two in three Aus­tralians being diag­nosed with the dis­ease before they reach 70 years old, accord­ing to the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on Health.

When you iden­ti­fy skin can­cer ear­ly, you have a bet­ter chance of avoid­ing seri­ous malig­nan­cies, surgery, pos­si­ble dis­fig­ure­ment, and even death. It is, there­fore, vital for you to month­ly self-check for any signs of skin cancer.

MoleMap rec­om­mends hav­ing your skin checked by your doc­tor, der­ma­tol­o­gist or MoleMap melanog­ra­ph­er, each year and con­duct­ing a self check every three months in between annu­al appoint­ments. Here’s how:

Fol­low these 5 main steps to self-exam­ine your skin.

1. Recog­nise the types of skin cancer.

2. Know your ABCDEF and G’s.

3. Per­form a month­ly skin self-check.

4. Note any­thing that is con­cern­ing or changing.

5. Show your doc­tor or MoleMap melanog­ra­ph­er if you have spots or moles of concern.

Here are each of these steps in detail.

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Recog­nise the types of moles, spots, and skin cancer

While there are a vari­ety of dif­fer­ent moles and spots to keep your eye on, and some may be benign, you should be aware of the below types.

  • Melanoma. Melanoma can devel­op as a change in an exist­ing spot, such as a change in the shape, col­or or size, or it can devel­op as a new spot alto­geth­er. It may appear in areas of your body that doesn’t see the sun and can spread through your entire body if it goes untreat­ed, mak­ing it one of the dead­liest types of skin cancer.
  • Nodu­lar Melanoma. Nodu­lar melanomas are dome-shaped, raised, and firm to the touch. They are even in col­or and may appear in the col­ors black, red, pink, or brown. They may begin to bleed or crust over with time.
  • Squa­mous Cell Car­ci­no­ma (SCC). SCC’s often devel­op in areas of the body that get a lot of sun expo­sure. They often grow as patch­es or scaly, flat pink spots on your skin. They can be firm and raised, sore or ten­der, and may bleed easily.
  • Basal Cell Car­ci­no­ma (BCC). BCCs may appear shiny and pink. They typ­i­cal­ly begin as an itch or irri­ta­tion in a pink spot that con­tin­ues for up to a few months and may devel­op a scab or sore. They may also bleed eas­i­ly as well.
  • Atyp­i­cal Moles. These moles are asym­met­ri­cal and have uneven, ragged, notched bor­ders, and uneven col­ors. They should be checked by a doc­tor at least once a year or soon­er if they change or grow.
  • Actinic/​Solar Ker­ato­sis. While not skin can­cer, these can devel­op into skin can­cer over time. These present as a dry, flaky patch that regrows.
  • Seb­or­rhoe­ic Ker­ato­sis. These spots are harm­less, but you should see a doc­tor if they don’t heal with­in a month or become inflamed.

Know your ABCDEF and G’s

These rep­re­sent red flags that should prompt you to get a spot screen­ing or full body screening.

A: Asym­me­try — If the lesion or spot is divid­ed in half; the two halves don’t look alike.

B: Bor­der — A spot with an irreg­u­lar or spread­ing edge.

C: Col­or — A spot that has var­i­ous col­ors through it.

D: Diam­e­ter — A spot that grows and changes in size or diameter.

E: Ele­va­tion — A raised mole or spot.

F: – Firm­ness — A spot or mole that feels firm and sol­id and when pressed, doesn’t flatten.

G: – Growth — A mole or spot that’s growing.

Know also that skin can­cer may not hurt; you can see it, but you may not feel it.

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Per­form a reg­u­lar self check — Step-by-step guide

The best time to per­form your reg­u­lar skin self-exam­i­na­tion is before or after a show­er. Choose a day every three months that you’ll stick to, such as the first or last day of the month, or every 15th of the month for consistency.

You’ll need a good source of light and two mir­rors (one full-length, the oth­er a small hand mir­ror). A comb or blow dry­er works well for exam­in­ing your scalp and, if pos­si­ble, your part­ner or spouse as a sec­ond pair of eyes.

Besides review­ing your A, B, C, D, E, F, and G’s described above, look for:

  • A new mole or spot.
  • An exist­ing mole or spot that’s changed.
  • A flaky or dry patch on your skin that’s been there for over a month.
  • A sore that hasn’t healed after four weeks.
  • A dark spot or patch under a toe­nail or fingernail.
  • A spot that looks abnor­mal or doesn’t seem right.
  • A mole that bleeds or is itchy.

Below is a step-by-step guide to check­ing your­self for skin cancer.

Steps:

1. Use the full-length mir­ror to check both the front, back, left, and right sides of your body. Raise your arms when doing this, and check under your breasts if you’re a woman.

2. Bend your elbows to care­ful­ly check the back of your fin­ger­nails, palms, upper arms, and forearms.

3. Close­ly exam­ine the backs of your feet and legs, your toe­nails, soles, and in between your toes. Use the hand­held mir­ror if you can’t see all the parts of your feet.

4. Exam­ine your face, scalp, ears, and neck. Be sure to remem­ber the backs of your scalp, ears, and neck, using the hand­held mir­ror (or your part­ner). Check your scalp entire­ly by part­ing your hair and mov­ing it around with the comb or blow dry­er. Again, you can have your part­ner per­form this step.

5. Check your but­tocks and back using the hand­held mir­ror if you’re uncom­fort­able hav­ing your part­ner do it for you.

Note any­thing that is con­cern­ing or chang­ing. Fol­low up with your doc­tor or MoleMap melanographer

f you have noticed any spots or moles that con­cern you, these should be shown to your doc­tor or a spe­cial­ist ser­vice for assess­ment. If the spot or lesion has fea­tures of melanoma this should be pre­sent­ed as soon as possible

Here at MoleMap, we can view the exter­nal and sub­sur­face struc­ture of any mole using state-of-the-art imag­ing equip­ment at one of our many clin­ics. MoleMap cam­eras see what’s going on below the sur­face of your moles — see­ing far more than your naked eye. This cou­pled with the diag­no­sis of a spe­cial­ist der­ma­tol­o­gist gives you access to an expert opin­ion when you need it.

For com­pre­hen­sive sur­veil­lance of all your spots and moles MoleMap pro­vides a Full Body MoleMap ser­vice. This ser­vice also includes free spot spot checks for spots or moles you are con­cerned about in between annu­al appointments

Sched­ule your Full Body MoleMap ses­sion online or give us a call at 1800 665 362 today.

MoleMap Team

At MoleMap we check, detect and treat skin cancer. Find out how you can protect your skin at your nearest MoleMap skin cancer clinic.

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