Self-Exams Save Lives
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that originates in the melanocytes, the cells responsible for skin pigmentation. While complete prevention of melanoma is not possible, early detection greatly increases the chances of successful treatment.
Protecting your skin from sun exposure is crucial, but regularly examining your skin is equally important to identify any potentially harmful moles or spots at an early stage.
Spotting Signs: What to Look for During Your Monthly Skin Exam
Familiarise yourself with the ABCDEs of melanoma, a set of warning signs that can help you identify potential melanoma during your monthly skin exam.
By observing these characteristics in your moles or spots, you can better assess their risk:
One half of the mole differs from the other half in appearance.
B – Border:
The borders or edges of the mole are irregular or uneven.
C – Colour:
The mole exhibits multiple colours, such as various shades of brown, tan, red, or black.
D – Diameter:
The mole is larger than 6 millimetres, approximately the size of a pencil eraser.
E – Evolution – if in doubt check it out:
The mole is changing in size, shape, texture, colour, or surface characteristics (such as bleeding), or you experience new symptoms like itching or tenderness. Contact your GP or our skin experts at Oxona Health for further evaluation.
Identifying the ‘Ugly Duckling’ Mole – In addition to the ABCDEs, be mindful of the “ugly duckling” mole. This refers to a mole or spot on your skin that stands out or feels different from the others on your body. These unique moles may warrant closer examination during your monthly skin check.
Get Prepared: Essential Supplies for the Skin Exam
Gather the following supplies to conduct a thorough skin exam:
- Full-length mirror
- Hand-held mirror
- Body maps (see step 5)
- Pen or pencil to document your observations
7 Step Guide: Conducting a Monthly Skin Exam
Follow these guidelines and steps when conducting your monthly skin exam:
Step 1: Select a well-lit room. Choose a room with ample lighting to conduct your skin exam, enabling you to clearly observe any changes or abnormalities.
Step 2: Consider assistance. While you can perform the exam on your own, involving a family member, partner, or friend can be beneficial. They can assist in checking hard-to-see areas, such as your scalp and back. If necessary, your hairdresser can also help monitor spots on your scalp.
Step 3: Break it down. Divide your body into sections to ensure thorough examination. Start with one side, move to the back, and then proceed to the other side. This systematic approach helps prevent overlooking any areas. Begin by inspecting any existing moles and birthmarks. Look for any changes, particularly new moles or alterations in mole colour. Remember to look for the ABCDEs of melanoma and any ugly duckling moles during the examination.
Step 4: Use mirrors. Utilise a full-length mirror and a hand-held mirror to examine all angles of your body. The hand-held mirror allows you to see difficult-to-reach areas, such as your back and the soles of your feet.
Step 5: Document your observations. Maintain a set of body maps specifically designed for skin exams. Mark the location of any suspicious spots, note their size, and describe their appearance. These records will be useful when discussing your concerns with your GP or our healthcare professionals at Oxona Health.
Step 6: Stay consistent. Set a specific date each month to conduct your skin exam, making it a routine part of your self-care. Consider associating it with other regular appointments, such as visits to your hairdresser, dentist, or eye doctor, as they may also detect changes.
Step 7. Get a professional opinion. If you notice any moles or spots exhibiting the ABCDE signs or any changes from your previous exams, mark them on your body maps and promptly contact your GP for further evaluation.
When in Doubt, Check it Out: Book an Examination with a Health Professional
As GPs with the post-graduate diplomas in Dermatology we are experts at assessing moles. We are highly trained in Dermoscopy. We would advise all patients to book in for an annual ‘Full body mole and blemish check’, alternatively, if you have just one mole of concern then a ‘pre-operative appointment’ will suffice. So, what happens if we find something worrisome?
- We can refer you back into the NHS. A common misconception of the private sector is that you get sucked in with spiralling bills. Not at Oxona Health. We can send you directly into the NHS two-week wait list at the Churchill Hospital, so no need to shell out more money, or go back to your GP.
- Some patients are keen to have things dealt with very quickly, so we can offer a range of treatment options depending on the diagnosis. This can ranges from an Efudix prescription, a shave excision or an ellipse excision with a wide margin. All samples can be sent to Histopathology for analysis.
To book an appointment use the booking tool on our website or call 01865 965027. Our team are more than happy to advise on suitability of appointment type and provide you with guide prices.