Keeping a Skin Cancer Body Map
Visiting a dermatologist regularly to receive a full body exam is a common skin cancer prevention tip. However, often visits are yearly, and may not be frequent enough to detect potential problem spots for individuals who have many moles or who have a history of skin cancer. Performing self-examinations at home is a great way to keep track of spots, bumps, moles, and other landmarks on your skin to point out to your dermatologist at your next visit. Self-examinations are also an excellent way to detect potential skin cancers early on, and raise a red flag that it may be time for your next appointment sooner than anticipated.
Typical recommendations suggest performing self-examinations of your skin monthly, but our bodies can have hundreds of markings… How is it possible to keep track of everything we see? How do we know when a mole or landmark has changed enough to warrant concern? One answer to this is simple, and something you and your whole family can use: a body map!
Tracking changes in your skin
A body map can look like a simple sketch of the body, with one image representing your front side, and another your back. You can use different colors, markings, or symbols to designate moles and other landmarks on your body that you want to keep an eye on. A great way to start this process is to visit your dermatologist and have them point out what existing marks you have are healthy, versus others that could become a cause for concern. They may even be able to help you draw more concerning spots on your body map that you can use for reference. In the margins of your body map you can write the date of any self-exams (or exams from your provider) and take notes on spots that are new or changing from the previous month. This will help you keep track of month-to-month changes in your skin, as well as provide you with some questions to ask your provider at your next visit.
Your body map is all yours. However, how you want to designate what you see is totally up to you. Some may like to make a dot on their map where a concerning mark resides and then draw a line to the margins of the page where you write more detailed notes. Others may have a size-charting system with different sized symbols that represent approximate real-life sizes. Other maps may be colored to designate marks that are changing colors or multicolored in nature. However you want to make your map is completely up to you! As long as you keep a consistent system, and perform a comprehensive self-exam, you’ll be able to record any month-to-month changes in each concerning location.
Changes in color, symmetry, borders, and size are many of the factors you can consider when evaluating a skin marking. Performing at-home exams can often be made easier with a partner, where you can help each other fill in your perfect skin map! Even children or those without a history of skin cancer or many skin markings can get involved and create their own map. Not only could a skin map prove to be an effective tool in preventing or detecting future skin cancers, but it can also be an interactive way to teach others about the importance and ease of monitoring your skin!
Let us know if you use a skin map and how you customize your own process! We’d love to hear your ideas!