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East Central Indiana

Self Exam - How To

Self Exam - How To

How to do a Monthly Exam of the Skin

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends a complete examination of your skin annually by your dermatologist or other physician, supplemented by a monthly self-exam of your skin.

A routine self-examination of the skin should take only a few minutes. However, the first few times may take a little longer, as your familiarize yourself with your entire skin surface. Thereafter, you will be better able to tell if any mole or blemish had changed. Particularly look for changes in size, shape, and color, and whether there is bleeding, itching or pain. Also, note any new spots that may have developed.

You may find it helpful to have a spouse, relative or friend assist you in looking at areas that may be hard for you to see, such as some areas of the scalp, back and buttocks.

Follow the step by step instructions to examine your skin as shown in the following illustrations. If you discover any areas which have changed as described above, or which worry you in any way, please call to make an appointment.

Step 1. Make sure the room is well-lighted and that you have nearby a full-length mirror, a hand-held blow dryer, and two chairs or stools. Undress completely.

Step 2. Hold your hands with the palms face up and examine your fingers, spaces between the fingers, and the forearms. Then turn your hands over and examine the backs of your hands, fingers, spaces between the fingers, fingernails, and forearms.

Step 3. Now position yourself in front of the full-length mirror. Hold up your arms, bent at the elbows with your palms facing you. In the mirror, look at the backs of your forearms and elbows.

Step 4. Again using the full-length mirror, observe the entire front of your body. In turn, look at your face, neck, and arms. Turn your palms to face the mirror and look at your upper arms. Then look at your chest and abdomen, pubic area, thighs, and lower legs.

Step 5. Still standing in front of the mirror, lift your arms over your head with the palms facing each other. Turn so that your right side is facing the mirror of your trunk, thighs, and lower legs. Then turn and repeat the process with your left side.

Step 6. With your back toward the full-length mirror, look at your buttocks and the backs of your thighs and lower legs.

Step 7. Now pick up the hand-held mirror. With your back still to the full-length mirror, examine the back of your neck, your back, and buttocks. Also examine the backs of your arms in this way. Some areas are hard to see, and you may find it helpful to ask your spouse or a friend to assist you.

Step 8. Use the hand-held mirror and full-length mirror to look at your scalp. Because the scalp is difficult to examine, we suggest you also use a hand-held blow dryer turned to a cool setting to lift the hair from the scalp. While some people find it easy to hold the mirror in one hand and the dryer in the other while looking in the mirror, many do not. For the scalp examination in particular then you might ask your spouse or a friend to assist you.

Step 9. Sit down and prop up one leg on the chair or stool in front of you as shown. Using the hand-held mirror, examine the inside of the propped-up leg, beginning at the groin area and moving the mirror down the leg to your foot. Repeat the procedure for your other leg.

Step 10. Still sitting, cross one leg over the other. Use the hand-held mirror to examine the top of your foot, the toes, toenails and spaces between the toes. Then look at the sole or bottom of your foot. Repeat the procedure for the other foot.