Nearly 5 million people are treated for skin cancer in the U.S. each year. Skin cancer is scary, but did you know that there is a 99% survival rate if skin cancer is found in its earliest stages? The key is spotting questionable moles before they spread.
You might be wondering how to tell if your mole could be cancer. What does skin cancer look like? Questions like these can best be answered by a dermatologist or board certified plastic surgeon, but there are steps you can take at home to provide your doctor with good information.
A monthly skin cancer self-examination is a great way to pay attention and identify any strange moles or new lesions. To make this easy for you, board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Henry F. Garazo has created a simple, downloadable skin cancer self-examination checklist.
Follow the five easy steps below to complete a thorough self-exam:
Step One: Gather Your Supplies
You’ll need a few household objects to perform your self-examination. First you’ll need a full length mirror and a hand mirror so you can see every angle of your body. A hair dryer may also be helpful when you examine your scalp. Be sure to have your phone or camera ready to take a photo of any unusual moles.
Click here to download the self-examination checklist. You may either work from your computer or mobile device, or you can print the form to fill out as you go.
Step Two: Getting Started
Remove your clothes in a well-lit room and carefully examine each body part in the mirror, from head to toe, using the self-examination checklist as a guide. Pay particular attention to your scalp, face, neck, chest, back of thighs, and feet. Use a hand mirror to zero in on hard-to-reach areas. Take a note or photo of anything suspect.
It’s important to note any changes to existing moles or any new blemishes that arise. Dr. Garazo’s garazo-visual-mole-guide-skin-cancer-prevention is a handy tool for identifying signs that may point to cancerous moles.
Step Three: Document Your Results
Use photos and notes to record any unusual moles, making note of their size, shape, and color. The more information you bring to your healthcare provider, the better he or she can evaluate and recommend any necessary treatment.
Step Four: Follow Up With a Physician
After you’ve taken note of any suspect moles or lesions, bring that information to a board certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon. He or she will recommend a course of action based on their in-person evaluation and the warning signs you recorded.
Today’s skin cancer treatment often includes modified Mohs surgery; board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Henry F. Garazo has extensive experience with this procedure. This method works by cutting out one layer of tissue at a time and then having a pathologist immediately examine it under a microscope. Layers are removed until the doctor finds only healthy, cancer-free tissue where the tumor was located. Modified Mohs surgery has high success rates while sparing as much healthy tissue as possible. Additionally, patients can have everything done at one time, including plastic surgery to achieve the best result possible.
Step Five: Enjoy Peace of Mind
Now that you know more about how to detect skin cancer, be sure to perform a self-examination every month. Being aware of your skin and moles can go a long way toward keeping your skin healthy and cancer-free.