How we perform a skin self exam

Regular skin self examinations are important in detecting early changes. This can be undertaken at regular intervals unlike examinations from a doctor. Skin self-exam is mandatory especially if you have a lot of moles, and/or family history of melanoma, and/or fair skin that burns or freckles easily and/or “you have been burned” repeatedly by the sun when you were a teenager. By checking your skin regularly, you will become familiar with what is normal for you. It may be helpful to record the dates of your skin exams and to write notes about the way your skin looks. If you find anything unusual, see your doctor right away, or visit immediately a skin cancer centre mentioned at the end of this article.

Steps involved in performing a skin self-exam

The best time to do a skin self-exam is after a shower or bath. You should check your skin in a well-lit room using a full-length mirror and a hand-held mirror. It's best to begin by learning where your birthmarks, moles, and blemishes are and what they usually look and feel like.  Check yourself from head to toe. Don't forget to check all areas of the skin, including the back, the scalp, between the buttocks and the genital area.  Look at your face, neck, ears, and scalp. You may want to use a comb or a blow dryer to move your hair so that you can see better. You also may want to have a relative or friend check through your hair because this is difficult to do yourself.  Look at the front and back of your body in the mirror, then raise your arms and look at your left and right sides.  Bend your elbows and look carefully at your fingernails, palms, forearms (including the undersides), and upper arms.  Examine the back, front, and sides of your legs. Also look between your buttocks and around your genital area.  Sit and closely examine your feet, including the toenails, the soles of your feet and the spaces between the toes.

When we have to be aware

We have to be aware when we check and find anything new like:
•    A new mole (that looks abnormal)
•    A change in the size, shape, colour, or texture of a mole (ABCDE criteria (see relevant article “Melanoma –diagnosis and treatment”)
•    A sore that does not heal 

Special centres for skin cancers and melanoma

Special centres for skin cancers and melanoma exist in certain hospitals in Athens and in other areas of Greece as:
• Attic Hospital (Tel. 210-5832396)
• Hospital “A. Syggros” (Tel. 210-7231731)
• Hospital ORGANISATION OF SOCIAL SECURITY “G. Gennimatas” (Tel. Appointment 184)
• Academic Hospital of Crete (tel. 2810-542107)