Most people will have some form of mole on their body. In the vast majority of cases, they aren’t anything to worry about. That said, there are instances when the presence of a mole may indicate you’re at risk of developing skin cancer. Addressing this problem as soon as possible is essential.
That’s why our private dermatologists at Duality Health believe it’s important that all people know how to check their moles for key warning signs of melanoma, the cancer associated with atypical moles. If you notice any of the signs covered in this guide, schedule an appointment at a private clinic right away. It’s far easier to treat these types of conditions effectively when they’re diagnosed early.
In the meantime, it’s important to understand the process for checking your moles. The following guide explains how to go about doing so, and when you should see a specialist.
Mole Screening Tips: How to Check Your Moles
Before learning techniques for checking moles you might otherwise overlook, it’s worth covering the various reasons a mole might give you reason to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist. Typically, you should let a specialist take a closer look at your moles if any have changed in size, shape, and/or colour. Changes in size may consist either of changes in width or changes in thickness.
It’s also important to schedule an appointment if moles have become tender, painful or itchy. It’s particularly crucial to seek medical attention sooner rather than later if they begin to bleed or ooze. The area of skin around the mole might also take on a red colour. This is another sign you need to see a dermatologist.
Additionally, you should make an appointment if any new moles develop after you’re 20 years of age or older. They may not be signs of a problem, but it’s best to stay safe and seek professional advice. At the very least, your private dermatologist can coordinate with you over the course of several appointments to make sure what appears to be a benign mole doesn’t develop into something more serious.
Now that you know what types of warning signs you should pay attention to when checking yourself for moles, you need to learn precisely how to check yourself.
Keep in mind that all people should check their moles at least once every three months. While it’s of course particularly important to check your moles if you’ve been told you’re at a greater risk of developing melanoma than the average person, anyone can develop this condition. Thus, everyone needs to know how they can identify the early warning signs of it.
When checking your moles, you obviously have several different problem signs you need to be alert to. Remembering them all can seem like a struggle. That’s why many private dermatologists recommend simplifying the process with this basic tactic. It merely involves listing the signs you need to be on the lookout for in a manner that’s far more easy to recall during the process. Specifically, you want to look for:
- Asymmetry: Most benign moles tend to be relatively symmetrical. If one half of a mole looks noticeably different from the other half (in any way), a specialist should examine it.
- Border: Check the borders of all moles on your body. Make an appointment with a dermatologist if you notice any borders that appear ragged or notched. A healthy mole will usually have a smooth border.
- Colour: If a mole is more than one colour, that’s a common warning sign of a problem. On top of that, most benign moles are usually brown, and remain one shade of it. Moles that may be signs of melanoma can feature various shades of tan, brown, and/or black. As they grow, they might also change colour, with white, red, or blue shades appearing as well.
- Diameter: A mole’s diameter should never be larger than that of a pencil eraser. If it is, see a dermatologist.
- Evolving: All the signs listed above represent ways in which a cancerous mole may look different from benign moles. However, it’s also important to seek professional advice if a mole changes shape, colour, size, or changes in any other significant and noticeable way.
Cancerous moles can essentially form anywhere on the body. That said, it’s worth mentioning that cancerous moles most often develop on men’s backs, and on women’s lower legs. Although you should of course check all moles on your body, it’s important to pay close attention to these areas during the process.
It’s also important to make sure you don’t overlook any key areas. Because you can’t take a close look at all areas of your body with your eyes alone, you’ll need to remember certain key tips to truly check yourself as thoroughly as possible.
Dermatologists often recommend using a full-length mirror to check your moles. This helps you check areas that might otherwise be difficult to examine. If you don’t have a full-length mirror in your home, consider investing in one sometime in the future.
When checking yourself in the mirror, it helps to take a systematic approach. Begin by closely checking your head, and work your way all the way down your body, checking every spot down to your feet. You also need to remember to check areas people often forget, such as the spaces between your fingers and toes, your groin area, and the soles of your feet.
That’s typically an effective process for checking the front of your body. Checking the back tends to be a little trickier. That’s why you may want to enlist the help of a trusted family member or romantic partner during this stage. They can help you check areas that are difficult for you to see on your own. On top of that, in the age of smartphones, they can probably easily take pictures of any moles in hard-to-see spots. Asking a friend for help is also useful when checking your scalp and neck for moles, which is an essential step in the process that can’t be skipped.
However, if no one is available to help you check your moles right away, you can stand with your back to a full-length mirror and use a handheld mirror to check the back of your body. You’ll need to practice getting the angles perfect, providing you with a thorough view of all areas of your body where moles may be present.
Checking your moles doesn’t stop there. It’s also important to monitor their development and evolution. This is key to ensuring you notice any changes the next time you check yourself.
Thus, you should make an attempt to take a picture of all your moles, dating it accordingly. At the very least, you should take a picture of any that you and your dermatologist believe may require further attention. Again, if there are some that are difficult to reach, you can ask a close family member to help.
After checking your moles, compare the most recent pictures to the pictures you took the last time you checked yourself. If you notice any differences, even if they seem relatively minor, contact our private clinic to schedule an appointment with an expert.
Schedule a Private Mole Check
It’s important to check your moles every three months. However, a personal check is simply a preliminary step. A private dermatologist can check your moles more closely. They’ll also have the necessary expertise to spot warning signs you might have overlooked. If they do notice any moles that could be signs of melanoma, they may ask you to keep track of them over the course of several visits, or they may recommend a biopsy right away.
This involves painlessly removing a portion of the mole so it can be sent to a lab for testing. If the test results reveal a problem, your dermatologist will likely want to schedule a mole removal procedure as soon as possible.
Don’t delay in scheduling an appointment if you ever suspect a mole looks or feels irregular. The sooner you get the proper attention, the sooner you can receive any necessary treatments. At the very least, meeting with a dermatologist gives you the opportunity to discuss the process of checking your moles in greater detail.
At Duality Health, serving the Newry and Dungannon areas, our experts will gladly go over the topic, helping you thoroughly understand how to protect yourself. Get started today by scheduling an appointment online. We also offer video consultations in some instances.