Self-Checks & Skin Exams
When caught early, melanoma is highly curable. And while treatments for advanced melanoma are improving rapidly, prevention and early detection are still the best treatment option. That’s why taking steps to prevent melanoma and to identify it early are key.
Everyone’s skin is different. However, melanoma often has its own tell-tale signs that you can watch out for - what experts call the ABCDEs of melanoma. Learn what to look for when examining your skin for signs of skin cancer and melanoma.
Once you know what to look for, it’s important to set aside time each month to thoroughly examine your skin. Self-checks are best performed in a brightly lit room with access to both full length and hand mirrors. Get step-by-step guidance on how to make the most of your monthly-self check. If you notice anything concerning see your healthcare provider as soon as possible for a clinical skin exam.
Clinical Skin Exam
Most people start with their primary care clinic or family doctor. Next, many patients are referred to a dermatologist – a doctor that specializes in skin – though some patients may choose to start with a dermatologist or already have an existing relationship with a dermatologist.
Your doctor will inspect suspicious moles and will likely examine all of your moles or skin lesions during a full-body skin exam. In some clinics, photographs of your entire body or suspicious moles are taken. Having documented images can help your doctor track changes in your moles over time, often over many months or years. During the exam, your doctor or dermatologist is relying on their years of training to identify – or rule out – suspicious lesions on your body.
Your doctor may use a dermatoscope, also called a dermascope, to see more of the mole or suspected melanoma than what is possible with the naked eye alone. A dermatoscope is a handheld device that uses bright light and magnification. Dermoscopy is an important tool used by the doctor to help determine if a suspicious mole is benign or likely to be melanoma.
In addition to dermoscopy, several other non-invasive techniques are in use or under development to give doctors more information about a suspect lesion during an exam.
Additional Tools Your Doctor May Use:
- Total Body Photography – useful for tracking moles/lesions over time. It is also called ‘mole mapping.’
- Reflectance Confocal Microscopy – uses a laser to painlessly provide an ‘optical biopsy’
- Electrical Impedance Spectroscopy – uses harmless electrical signal to distinguish melanomas and other skin cancers from healthy skin. Measures changes in the resistance to electrical impulses within the skin.
- Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) – creates a high resolution 3D image of a lesion using reflected light. It is also called an ‘optical ultrasound.’
- High-Frequency Ultrasound – uses high frequency sound waves to create high resolution images of the skin.
Even if your doctor does not suspect melanoma or another skin cancer at the time, but sees the lesion as atypical or worrisome, they may suggest further testing.
Were you or a loved one just diagnosed with melanoma? We have the resources to help.