Mole checks, do it. Every melanoma survivor is supposed to get moles checked. We go to the dermatologist and they check them out for us. But, what about those times when we can’t get to the doctor. What if you do not have a spouse or friend who can assist you? Many of us are on our own and must take responsibility for our own mole-checking. Here are some tips that I have found helpful.
New research about melanoma
Recent research suggests that 1 in 3 melanomas arise from pre-existing moles on our skin according to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.1 Of course this means that the majority of melanomas present new lesions. Checking for new lesions is critical to early detection, but monitoring previously harmless moles is also good practice. “In fact, the new research also showed that the melanomas that developed from existing moles tended to be thinner, giving them a better prognosis.”
What am I to look for in previous moles?
- Look for moles that are asymmetrical. If you drew a line down the middle of the middle do both halves match up? If not, it could be a sign of melanoma.
- Look for moles with irregular borders. Does the border of the mole fade into the surrounding skin and the edges are indistinct? If so, it could be a sign of melanoma.
- Look for moles that have different colors. Benign moles are normally one color. If your moles have different shades of light brown, brown or black, it could be a sign of melanoma.
- Look for moles that are large. Moles that are larger than a pencil eraser could indicated malignancy. Measure them.
- Look for moles that seem to be evolving (growing) Moles that itch, bleed or are crusting are warning signs. Get them checked out.
- Look for moles that are unusual and seem out of place. Moles that don’t look like the others may be a sign of melanoma. Pay attention.
How in the world do I monitor this?
- Take Notes. Write down what you see and make note of the date. Look for changes in color and shape.
- Take Photos. Document your moles. It is easier than ever to take selfies with Smart phones.
- Take Stock. Divide your skin into various zones. This will help you in mapping your skin and keeping track of your moles. A systematic approach will help you.
- Take a Measurement. Monitor the size of your moles.
- Make an Appointment. Set a regular time to check your moles. Build this time into your schedule.
Go with your gut instinct
These suggestions come from experience and are rooted in scientific research. Documenting your moles on a regular basis make sense, but I have found that trusting my instincts are important as well. If something just does not look right or feel right, get it checked out. If you are not sure, get it checked out. After all, you are your best resource in this. The dermatologist only sees you on occasion, but you see yourself every day. Do yourself a great favor and become a student of your moles. I believe that you will be happy that you did.
How well have your skin cancer diagnoses been explained to you?