The importance of regular melanoma screenings

The importance of regular melanoma screenings

Julie Scott, DNP
Julie Scott, DNP

What is Melanoma or Skin Cancer?

Melanoma is a cancer of melanocytes, the cells in the skin that give the skin color. When melanocytes become abnormal and start to grow uncontrollably, melanoma develops. There are no specific screening tests for melanoma other than a visual skin check.

These skin checks can include a self-skin check and one done by a dermatologist.

Self-skin check

When performing a self-skin check, it’s important to remember that melanomas can grow on any part of the body, so checking out all areas of the skin is important. The skin check should be done in a well-lit room with a full-length mirror. Having a hand mirror available is helpful as well. Some steps for the self-skin check include:

● Start with a look at the entire front of the body, then the back.

● Raise up each arm and look there as well as each side of your body

● Look in detail at each arm, both front and back, starting at the fingers, looking in between them and up the forearms to the upper arms.

● Examine the legs well, starting at the toes and working up. Don’t forget to look in between the toes as well.

● Use a hand mirror to check your back well.

● Also use a hand mirror to evaluate the skin on the genitals.

● Look at the inside of your mouth, including inside the cheeks and under the tongue.

● Note any areas that may have changed or look different. Take a picture.

Self-skin checks should be done once a month.

 

Dermatologist skin check

If there are any areas on your skin that you think have changed or look suspicious, contact your dermatologist for a skin check. The dermatologist will be able to get a better look at your skin with a special tool to help magnify the skin and look for any suspicious changes. If there is something they find to be worrisome, they can perform a skin biopsy and test the cells for cancer.

 

ABCDEs of melanoma

The ABCDE of melanoma describes the various changes that can be present in a skin lesion that signal the possibility of melanoma.

A: Asymmetry. Each half of the lesion doesn’t match in shape.

B: Borders: The edges of the lesion are not smooth; they can be blurred or uneven.

C: Color: Multiple colors are present or may become a different color.

D: Diameter: Lesion is growing or is at least 6mm wide.

E: Evolving: The lesion has changed, in either size, color, or shape, and may itch or bleed

 

There are many ways to prevent melanoma; the best way is through early detection. Self-check skin cancer examinations should be done every month, and any changes in moles or new growths should be promptly checked out by a dermatologist. In addition to self-checks, regular screenings by a physician can play an important role in the early detection of melanoma.UV exposure is the main cause of melanoma, so protecting your skin from harmful sun rays is important. Wearing sunscreen, covering up with clothing when outdoors, and avoiding peak UV hours can help reduce your risk of developing this disease.

By increasing awareness of the importance of early detection and taking preventive measures against UV exposure, we can work together to help fight melanoma.

Julie Scott, DNP
Julie Scott, DNP
Julie is an oncology certified Oncology Nurse Practitioner with over a decade of medical oncology experience. In addition to her clinical work, she is an accomplished healthcare writer providing oncology content for various publications. She also serves as an adjunct faculty member for a Master's nursing program and a chair for Doctoral nursing students.

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