These 4 Self-Exams May Save Your Life

Asian woman looking in mirror while feeling her neck for a self exam.

May is Melanoma and Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month making it a good time to take precautions to protect yourself and those you love by doing self-exams at home. We’ll explore why to conduct self-exams at home and the screenings you can conduct on yourself in between regular visits to your doctor.

4 Reasons to Conduct Self-Exams:

There are four reasons why conducting regular self-exams is important.

  1. Early Detection Saves Lives: Like anything in life, the earlier you detect a potential problem the longer lead time there will be to investigate and start treatment. In the case of skin cancer, more people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. than all other cancers combined. This is why self-skin checks are especially important.
  2. Self-Exams Are Easy to Perform: Self-exams can be done easily in the privacy of your home and require no special equipment or training other than guidance on what to look for like a bump or lump or irregularly shaped or new spots or growths.
  3. Regular Checkups May Not Be Enough: Having regular checkups with your doctor and specialists is important along with standard screenings like mammograms are incredibly important but these screenings are typically done only once a year. This is why doing regular self-exams at home is important as you’re more able to catch any changes in your skin or body in between these visits.
  4. You May Save Time and Money: If you catch an issue early enough it may mean less time at the doctor for other testing and procedures and less money spent on traveling back and forth, potentially expensive treatments and doctor visits.

If you struggle with your health, you may be interested to read our blog Chronic Illness and Disability: 8 Tips to Cope

Below, we’ll explore four self-exams you might want to consider performing on a regular basis.

  1. Head-to-Toe Check: Conduct a head-to-toe check of your skin and body every month looking for any unusual spots, moles or growths. Use a mirror to examine hard-to-see areas, such as your scalp and back or ask a trusted friend or partner to help.

    The following are important to remember when doing a head-to-toe check:
    ABCDE Rule: Use the ABCDE rule to identify potential issues with moles or growths. Look for Asymmetry, Border irregularities, Color variation, Diameter larger than 6mm which is about the size of a pencil eraser, and Evolving changes in size, shape, or color.
    Check Your Nails: Check your nails and nail beds for any unusual spots or growths. Skin cancer can also develop under the nails, so it’s important to pay attention to any changes.
    Don’t Forget Your Feet and Head: Use a mirror to examine your scalp for any unusual spots or growths. Ask a friend or family member for help if needed. Examine the bottoms of your feet and between your toes for any unusual spots or growths.
  2. Breast Self-Exams: It’s important to note that both men and women can develop breast cancer so both should be conducting breast self-exams. Lay flat on the floor or a bed which allows the breast tissue to spread out. Use the pads of your fingers in a pattern around each breast to check for lumps or irregularities.  
  3. Oral Exams: Oral cancers like all cancers, are important to find early. Make sure you have a well-lit area with a mirror to conduct this self-exam. First, look carefully at your face, neck, cheeks (inside and out), lips, gums, bottom of your mouth, tongue (side to side and top and bottom) and roof of your mouth. If you notice any spots, swelling or something that doesn’t look right, call your dentist, doctor or healthcare provider right away.
  4. Belly Fat: According to Harvard Medical School, belly fat produces hormones that increase people’s risk for heart disease, some cancers, dementia, diabetes and more so measuring your belly fat is something you can do at home. To perform this self-exam, take a soft tape measure around your back and over your bare skin at your belly button level. Over 35 inches for women and over 37 inches for men is cause for asking your doctor the best way to lose weight for your health.

Want more health tips? Check out our blog Health Tests and Preventative Screenings You Need By Age

Learn more about our corporate support of the American Cancer Society and other community partners here on our CNO Corporate Responsibility page!

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