Self-Exams Save Lives

Early Detection Starts With You

When caught and treated early, skin cancers are highly curable. And in the early stages of skin cancer development, you’re the one with the best chance to see changes.

That’s why we recommend that you examine your skin head-to-toe every month. It’s a simple but powerful way to look at yourself with a new focus that can save your life.

What to look for

the big see unusual gif

Because skin cancers appear in many shapes and sizes, it’s important to know the warning signs associated with basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), melanoma, Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) and the precancer actinic keratosis (AK).

If you see something NEW, CHANGING or UNUSUAL, get checked by a dermatologist right away. It could be skin cancer. This includes:

  • A growth that increases in size and appears pearly, transparent, tan, brown, black, or multicolored.
  • A mole, birthmark or brown spot that increases in size, thickness, changes color or texture, or is bigger than a pencil eraser. Learn the ABCDEs of melanoma.
  • A spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab or bleed.
  • An open sore that does not heal within three weeks.

Learn more about early detection at TheBigSee.org.

What you'll need

A thorough self-exam requires the following simple supplies: a bright light, a full-length mirror, a hand mirror, two chairs or stools, a blow-dryer, paper and a pencil.

How to perform a self-exam

1. Examine your face

Especially your nose, lips, mouth and ears — front and back. Use one or both mirrors to get a clear view.

2. Inspect your scalp

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.

3. Check your hands

Palms and backs, between the fingers and under the fingernails. Continue up the wrists to examine both the front and back of your forearms.

4. Scan your arms

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.

5. Inspect your torso

Next, focus on the neck, chest and torso. Lift the breasts to view the undersides.

6. Scan your upper back

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.

7. Scan your lower back

Still using both mirrors, scan your lower back, buttocks and backs of both legs.

8. Inspect your legs

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.

Novartis logo color

Sun & Skin News

What’s the Sunscreen Situation?

Early Detection Starts with You

Not All UV Rays Stay Outside: How Window Film Can Help Protect You