Every individual experiences change as he/she grows with age, from infant to toddler to active adult. Change and growth is persistent, may that be physical or mental. We are the most familiar with the changes and phases our body goes through. But how many of us notice these changes minutely and associate them with diseases?
Most of the times, the changes that occurs to our body could be a sign of some underlying medical condition.
We may see a new mole, but not recognize it as a potential danger sign of a simple skin cancer. Men may visit the bathroom 30 times a day due to an enlarged prostate gland and either choose to live with it or simply accept frequent urination as part of the aging process.
Living with changes, or ignoring them, is especially true of oral cancers – cancer of tongue, lips, checks, esophagus and larynx. As with all cancers, the earlier a cancer is detected and treatment undertaken, the better the outcomes. One needs to practice monthly head-to-toe self-examination of their body, so that they can find any new or changing lesions that might be cancerous or pre-cancerous.
How to check?
Follow these simple steps to ensure a thorough self-examination:
- Examine your face, especially the nose, lips, mouth, and ears – front and back. Use one or more mirrors to get a clear view.
- Thoroughly inspect your scalp, using a blow dryer and mirror to expose each section to view. Get a friend or family member to help, if you can.
- Check your hands carefully: palms and backs, between the fingers and under the fingernails. Continue up the wrists to examine both front and back of your forearms.
- Standing in front of the full-length mirror, begin at the elbows and scan all sides of your upper arms. Don’t forget the underarms.
- Next focus on the neck, chest, and torso. Women should lift breasts to view the underside.
- With your back to the full-length mirror, use the hand mirror to inspect the back of your neck, shoulders, upper back, and any part of the back of your upper arms you could not view in step 4.
- Still using both mirrors, scan your lower back, buttocks, and backs of both legs.
- Sit down; prop each leg in turn on anothe other stool or chair. Use the hand mirror to examine the genitals. Check front and sides of both legs, thigh to shin, ankles, top of feet, between toes and under toenails. Examine soles of feet and heels.
What signs one must look for?
Look for any unusual lumps, bumps, masses and, again, obvious changes in skin color or texture on different body parts, and examine your skin and mouth very minutely.
While examining your breast, look for lumps and hard knot or thickening inside the breast or underarm area. Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast, change in the size or shape of the breast, dimpling or puckering of the skin, itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple and new pain in one spot that doesn’t go away.
If performed regularly, self-examination can alert you to changes and aid in the early detection of cancer. It should be done often enough to become a habit, but not so often as to feel like a bother. For most people, once a month is ideal, but ask your doctor if you should do more frequent checks.
Try to spare few minutes on yourself to examine, it could be a life-saving procedure.