Health checks should be part of your regular, annual routine & are a basic part of staying well. They are designed to keep you healthy & pick up potential problems early.
So what can you do at home?
All Australians ideally should visit their GP for an annual skin check but those at high risk (outdoor workers or fair skin) should have more regular checkups & don’t forget to perform self-examinations at home. A clever way to help you look out for potential skin cancers is to remember A, B, C, D & E.
A for Asymmetry: This is a mole that is no longer symmetrical if you were to draw a line down the middle of it. If it is oddly shaped, it is a warning for the potential of melanoma.
B for Border: A benign (non-cancerous) mole has smooth borders, surface & is even in tone. If you have a mole or freckle that has ridges or notches & dips in it, it could be an early melanoma.
C for Colour: Most moles are the same colour across the surface and generally a shade of brown. If you notice any skin areas that are mottled, creamy, black or blue a check by your GP is recommended.
D for Diametre: Do you have any moles or freckles that are larger than the eraser on the end of a pencil? Skin cancers can develop & grow quite quickly if left untreated.
E for Evolving: Benign, common skin spots look the same over time & remain unchanged for many years. Be on the alert for any skin areas that start to change in any way including new symptoms such as itchy, scaly or bleeding areas.
Testicular Self Examination
From puberty on wards, you should regularly check your testicles for any unusual thickenings or lumps. Testicular cancer has a very good cure rate if caught early enough, so it is very important to see your GP right away if you have any concerns.
How is the self-examination done?
The examination only takes a couple of minutes & it is best to perform it after a warm shower when the skin of the scrotum is relaxed. The testes should feel firm & the surface smooth. It is normal for one testis to be slightly bigger than the other & the left often hangs slightly lower than the right.
Using the palm of your hand, support your scrotum. Gentle roll one testis between the thumb & tip of fingers to feel for lumps or swelling around or on the surface of the testis. Then repeat with the other testis.
The epididymis is a soft tube that carries the sperm and sits at the back of the testis. Using the thumb & tip of fingers feel along the epididymis & check for any swelling in this area.
Everyone’s breasts look & feel different so it is important to become familiar with what is normal for you! The best time to check your breasts is what is comfortable for you – this could include when in the shower, putting on moisturizer or getting dressed. There is more to breast cancer than just “feeling a lump”, so what other symptoms or warning signs can you watch out for?
- A new lump in your breast or armpit
- Irritation, redness or flaky skin
- Nipple changes or discharge
- Changes in the size or shape of the breast
- Pain in the breast
When your shoulders & arms are relaxed by your side, your breasts should be evenly shaped & their usual size with consistent colouring. There shouldn’t be any changes to the shape, size & colouring even when raising your arms above your head. Watch for any fluid (watery, milky, yellow or blood) that may be coming out of one or both nipples.
To feel for any lumps in your breasts, firstly lie flat & using your opposite hand, firmly but smoothly move your fingers in a circular motion around your breast following a pattern. Repeat on the opposite breast. Once completed stand up & repeat the same circular actions on both breasts.
Your breast is from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen & from your armpit to your cleavage. Most women find feeling the breast in an up – and – down motion works best to cover the whole breast area.