Step by Step Self-Examination

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The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that you do a head-to-toe self-examination of your skin every month, so you can find any new or changing lesions that might be cancerous or precancerous. Skin cancers are almost always curable when found and removed early. Learn about the warning signs of skin cancer and what to look for during a self-examination. If you spot anything suspicious, see a doctor.

What you'll need: a bright light, a full-length mirror, a hand mirror, two chairs or stools, a blow-dryer, body maps and a pencil. 


Examine your face, especially your nose, lips, mouth and ears — front and back. Use one or both mirrors to get a clear view. man-and-face
2 Thoroughly inspect your scalp, using a blow-dryer and mirror to expose each section to view. Get a friend or family member to help, if you can. woman-and-blowdryer
3 Check your hands carefully: palms and backs, between the fingers and under the fingernails. Continue up the wrists to examine both the front and back of your forearms. woman-and-nails
4 Standing in front of the full-length mirror, begin at the elbows and scan all sides of your upper arms. Don’t forget the underarms. man-and-underarm
5 Next, focus on the neck, chest and torso. Women should lift breasts to view the undersides. woman-front
6 With your back to the full-length mirror, use the hand mirror to inspect the back of your neck, shoulders, upper back and any part of the back of your upper arms you could not view in step 4. man-and-back-of-head
7 Still using both mirrors, scan your lower back, buttocks and backs of both legs. man-and-butt
8 Sit down; prop each leg in turn on the other stool or chair. Use the hand mirror to examine the genitals. Check the front and sides of both legs, thigh to shin, ankles, tops of feet, between toes and under toenails. Examine soles of feet and heels. woman-and-foot

Medical Reviewers
Perry Robins, MD
Ronald G. Wheeland, MD
Edna Atwater, RN
Noreen Heer Nicol, RN

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