Self Checks Cancer

Get to Know Your Body: 4 Cancer Self-Exams to Consider

  • If it’s right for you, check out this how-to guide

    Cancer is often easier to treat successfully when it’s found early, before it can spread. Screenings, such as mammograms, help. So can knowing your body and watching for changes that may be signs of cancer. Self-exams—screenings you do yourself—are a good way to do that. 

    Self-exams aren’t a substitute for more advanced screenings. But they can be a good way to take charge of your own health. And they may help detect certain cancers early. Here are the facts about self-checks for four types of cancer. 

    Skin cancer 

    Regular self-exams may help you spot skin cancer, including melanoma. Once a month, check your skin from head to toe for new moles, spots, or areas that are changing, itching, or bleeding. Include areas that don’t get a lot of sunlight, like the soles of your feet, your underarms, and your fingernails and toenails.  

    It may help to: 

    • Use a blow dryer to help check your scalp.  
    • Use both a full-length mirror and a hand mirror to get a good view.  
    • Ask a loved one to help you check hard-to-see areas.  

    Oral cancer  

    Some experts recommend monthly oral cancer self-exams. To perform one: 

    1. Stand before a well-lit mirror, such as in your bathroom. If you wear dentures, remove them.  
    2. Check inside your mouth, including your lips, gums, cheeks, the roof of your mouth, and the top and bottom of your tongue.  
    3. Look and feel for changes, like white or red patches, lumps or thickened tissues, or sores that bleed easily and don’t heal.  
    4. Check your neck and jaw for lumps or swollen glands.  

    Testicular cancer  

    Not all doctors agree about the value of performing regular testicular cancer self-checks. If you have risk factors, like a personal history of an undescended testicle or a family history of testicular cancer, you may be more motivated than the average person to do testicular self-exams.  

    If you decide to perform them, it’s best to do so right after a shower, when the scrotum is relaxed.  

    Follow these steps: 

    1. Check each testicle separately with both hands.  
    2. Roll the testicle between your thumbs and fingers. 
    3. Feel and look for any hard lumps or enlargement of a testicle.  

    Breast self-exams 

    Most doctors don’t recommend doing breast self-exams for people at average risk of developing breast cancer, as there isn’t enough evidence they benefit women. Mammograms, on the other hand, have been shown to save lives. 

    But it’s still a good idea to know how your breasts normally look and feel, so you can ask your doctor about changes, such as:  

    • A lump or thickened area. 
    • Swelling, redness, or darkening.  
    • Skin dimpling or puckering.  
    • Fluid discharge from a nipple.  
    • An armpit lump.  
    • A change in a breast’s size or shape.  

    Check in with your doctor  

    If you notice a suspicious change while doing your self-checks, let your doctor know right away. Finding a suspicious change to your body doesn’t always mean you have cancer. Further testing can offer answers—and often peace of mind. And if a change is cancer-related, detecting it early may make it easier to treat.   

    Fox Chase Cancer Center has the experience and technology to offer expert answers—and help you navigate any follow-up care you might need. Call 888-369-2427 to schedule your consultation or request an appointment online