How to Perform a Skin Cancer Screening at Home

skin cancer screening

Even though the excitement we feel over the arrival of summer at Valley View Dermatology matches our patients, we wouldn’t be doing our jobs as your dermatologist in Salem if we didn’t warn you about the dangers related to skin cancer and the need for skin cancer screenings.

While breast, lung, and colon cancer receive far more national attention, skin cancer actually ranks as the most common form of the disease in the U.S. In fact, each year there are more cases of skin cancer diagnosed than lung, colon, breast, and prostate cancer combined, according to the American Cancer Society. The disease has become so prevalent, that one out of five Americans will receive a skin cancer diagnosis sometime during their lifetime. And while our cloudy skies and cool weather may convince you otherwise, skin cancer in Salem, Oregon is just as likely as the sun drenched streets of L.A., Phoenix, or Dallas.

Lowering your risk for skin cancer requires not only a yearly skin cancer screening from our dermatologists in Salem, but for you to perform a head-to-toe self-examination at least once a month. When caught at an early stage, skin cancers are nearly always curable. So the earlier you can spot that suspicious mole or patch of rough or uneven looking skin, the more likely you’ll be able to completely recover.

However, many patients simply don’t know how to conduct a self-examination. If you fall into the camp as willing but unable, we have you covered with tips on how to conduct an exam from the Skin Cancer Foundation.

Here’s what you need to get started: a bright light, a full-length mirror, a hand mirror, and a blow-dryer.

  1. Start by examining your face, especially in the areas surrounding the ears, mouth, lips, and nose. Make sure to check both the front and back of these areas. Use either the hand or full-length mirror to get a clearer view.
  2. Use the blow dryer to pull back your hair so you can examine the scalp. Trying to expose the scalp while also getting a good look at the state of your skin can be difficult, so you may need to enlist the help of a family member to make the process easier.
  3. Carefully examine your hands. Give the front and back of your palms a thorough examination, along with skin between your fingers and surrounding the nails. Make your way up the wrists to examine the entirety of your forearms.
  4. Stand in front of the full-length mirror, and examine your upper arms starting at the elbow. Don’t forget to check your underarms.
  5. Examine the torso, starting at the neck before making your way down the chest and torso. Women will need to lift their breasts to check the undersides.
  6. With your back facing the full-length mirror, use the hand mirror to inspect the back of your back, shoulder, and upper torso.
  7. Still using both mirrors, proceed down the body to scan your lower back, buttocks, and upper thigh.
  8. Sit down, place your leg up on the bed or other stool. Use the hand mirror to check the back of your thigh and calf. Also examine the front and back of your feet, including the skin between your toes and surrounding the toenails.

If you discover anything that looks suspicious or abnormal during your skin cancer screening, you need to immediately call your dermatologist in Salem for a complete examination. Skin cancer doesn’t need to cause problems. With a little precaution, your due diligence can make all the difference keeping you healthy and your skin looking its best.