Slip, Slop, Slap. It’s a message that has been ingrained into the psyche of Australians since the awareness campaign was first launched in the 1980s. But there’s another message relating to skin cancer that bares just as much weight.
The importance of regularly checking yourself for skin cancers cannot be understated.
It might just save your life!
There were an estimated 16,878 new melanomas diagnosed in Australia in 2021 as well as an estimated 1315 deaths.
Most skin cancers are highly treatable with early detection.
That’s why it is important to know your body and remain vigilant, looking for any new blemishes or changes to moles.
Fortunately, skin cancers are visible. They rarely cause discomfort, unless left untreated.
How to check yourself for skin cancers
It’s important to disrobe and check your entire body for skin cancers.
That includes parts that are rarely or never exposed to the sun including the soles of your feet, underarms, palms, between your fingers and toes and under toenails.
Legendary Jamaican singer Bob Marley died at just 36 after being diagnosed with a melanoma under a toenail.
Ensure you have good light and use a mirror to check those hard to see spots such as your back and scalp.
Even better, engage the help of a partner or family member.
And a regular check-up from your doctor is paramount to make sure nothing has been missed.
As easy as A, B, C, D, E
The Cancer Council of Australia likes to talk about the A, B, C, D, E of melanoma detection,
A is for Asymmetry – look for spots that are asymmetrical or uneven.
B is for Border – a spot without a border or spreading irregularly (notched) is of concern.
C is for Colour – spots with a number of colours or that change colour should be checked by a doctor.
D is for Diameter – spots that grow in size should be checked.
E is for Evolving – any spot that continues to change should be professionally assessed.
What else to look for
There are a few other things to watch out for when self-examining or helping someone else check for skin cancers.
- New moles
- A mole that becomes raised or develops a lump within it
- The surface of a mole becoming rough, scaly or ulcerated
- A mole that itches or tingles
- A mole that bleeds or weeps
- Anything that looks unusual or different to other moles on your body
Types of skin cancers
Melanoma – The nastiest and deadliest type. Will spread to other parts of your body if untreated. Can be a new spot or an old one that changes colour and shape. And can also appear in places not usually exposed to the sun.
Nodular Melanoma – only accounts for 15 percent of all melanomas. These are raised above the skin surface and even in colour. They may begin to bleed or crust after a while.
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) – one of the least dangerous types, these are common and present as a lump or dry, scaly area, often on the face or scalp. They grow slowly and often fail to heal. May need removal with day surgery under a local anaesthetic.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) – not as common as BCCs but potentially more serious because they are more likely to spread elsewhere in the body. Appear frequently on the face, neck and backs of hands. They grow over many months and are more common in people over age 50.
Solar or actinic Keratosis – also known as sunspots, these are easily treated with dry ice. They appear on the face as a result of prolonged sun damage over many years. They may be considered an early form of squamous cell carcinoma.
Call your doctor
While self-examination is important, it is also a very good idea to have regular check-ups with your doctor who can help with a full body examination.
Remember, early detection is imperative with skin cancers.
Even when a melanoma is present, Australians have a 92 percent chance of surviving five years.
Sometimes the smallest, seemingly innocuous blemish can change quickly and evolve into something dangerous.
At AHA Clinics, our doctors can detect these potentially deadly skin cancers and formulate the best health care strategy to quickly put you on the road to recovery.