How to Administer Self-exams


Although doctors are usually very thorough and keep scrupulous records, no one has the daily access to your health status that you yourself do. When it comes to monitoring for early warning signs, you are, by far, the best person for the job.

In this article, we'll talk about self-exams you can perform to look for skin cancer, testicular cancer, and breast cancer. Here's a preview.

  • Skin Cancer Self-ExamsSkin cancer, while largely preventable, is the most common type of cancer in the United States. Early detection and treatment are important to improve your prognosis. If you are in a high-risk group, you should perform regular self-examinations for signs of skin cancer. Be on the lookout for the A, B, C, D, and E signs of skin cancer: asymmetry, border irregularity, color variation, diameter larger than 6mm, and evolving lesions.
  • Testicular Cancer Self-ExamsThe good news is that testicular cancer is relatively rare. However, it's still important to perform regular self-exams to watch for signs of testicular cancer. Testicular cancer self-exams are performed in the shower and in front of the mirror; watch for hard lumps or bumps, pain, discoloration, changes in skin texture, and open sores.
  • Breast Cancer Self-ExamsBreast cancer self-exams take place in three steps: in the shower, in front of a mirror, and lying down. You'll want to watch for lumps, knots, changes in skin texture, dimpling or puckering, and non-milky discharge. It's important to perform self-exams regularly so that you become familiar with the landscape of your breasts and thus more easily notice potentially dangerous changes.

Many factors work together to improve (or damage) your health and longevity. Visit these links to learn more about staying healthy and avoiding illness.

  • Your family history and your lifestyle are just a few of the variables that affect your overall health. Learn more in How to Assess Your Health.
  • The word "cancer" strikes fear in anyone's heart -- the collection of diseases we know as cancer is the second-largest cause of death in the United States. Learn more in How Cancer Works.
  • A new vaccine is now available to protect against cervical cancer, the second-most common type of cancer in American women. Read How the Cervical Cancer Vaccine Works to learn more.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Skin Cancer Self-Exam

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States.

Skin that has been evenly browned by the sun may look healthy. However, as you've no doubt heard, sun exposure -- even the amount that it takes to give your cheeks just a hint of ruddy glow -- can damage your skin. It may even cause skin cancer. 

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. It is also largely preventable. The best defense is protective clothing and sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.  

The effects of sun damage are cumulative. Often, the effects go unnoticed and untreated from year to year. The worst damage is usually caused by exposure to the sun during the first ten years of a person's life.  

Early detection and treatment of skin cancer greatly improve a patient's prognosis. Fortunately, unlike other cancers, skin cancers are usually visible to the naked eye, even in their early stages. If you are in a high-risk group, dermatologists recommend that you conduct a thorough self-examination for skin cancer regularly. Follow the procedure outlined below. You will need a full-length mirror, a handheld mirror, and good lighting.

  • Disrobe and examine all parts of your body for moles, birthmarks, discolorations, and new or unusual-looking lesions. 
  • Use the handheld mirror to examine your buttocks, back, neck, and face. Lift your hair out of the way to get a clear view of your ears and hairline. If you cannot clearly see a part of your body, ask your partner or a close friend to help you. Don't neglect parts of your body that never see the sun. Cancers can develop in those areas, too.
  • Make mental or handwritten notes of the size, location, and appearance of your most significant moles and birthmarks. Keep these notes on hand to review during your next examination. Be sure to write down any changes you see developing over time.
  • Pay special attention to dark, pigmented, or irregularly shaped lesions.

When evaluating a mole or other lesion, remember the A, B, C, D, and E of skin-cancer warning signs:

  • A stands for asymmetry.
  • B is for border irregularity (frilly or poorly defined edges).
  • C is for color variation (especially black, tan, brown, white, or red).
  • D is for diameter larger than 6 millimeters (the size of a pencil eraser).
  • E is for an evolving lesion -- one that changes size, shape, shades of color, or has surface bleeding.

Many factors work together to improve (or damage) your health and longevity. Visit these links to learn more about staying healthy and avoiding illness.

  • Your family history and your lifestyle are just a few of the variables that affect your overall health. Learn more in How to Assess Your Health.
  • The word "cancer" strikes fear in anyone's heart -- the collection of diseases we know as cancer is the second-largest cause of death in the United States. Learn more in How Cancer Works.
  • A new vaccine is now available to protect against cervical cancer, the second-most common type of cancer in American women. Read How the Cervical Cancer Vaccine Works to learn more.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Testicular Cancer Self-Exams

The hormones that bring on the physical changes of puberty bring with them another, more worrisome possibility: testicular cancer. Fortunately, testicular cancer is relatively rare, accounting for about one percent of all cancers in men. It is, though, the most common form of cancer in males ages 20 to 35 but can occur in other age groups. Testicular cancer is usually curable if it is detected and treated early. 

To be safe, you should examine your testicles monthly or as often as advised by your doctor. Regular examinations will help you get familiar with your body's natural architecture, so that you'll more easily recognize any unusual symptoms. 

In the shower, roll each testicle between the forefinger and thumb, carefully checking all areas for hard lumps or bumps. Make note of any pain you experience. Later, in a mirror, look for evidence of discoloration, changes in skin texture, or open sores. If you notice anything suspicious, see your physician as soon as possible.

Detecting breast cancer early greatly improves your chances for survival. Keep reading to learn how to perform a breast cancer self-exam.

Many factors work together to improve (or damage) your health and longevity. Visit these links to learn more about staying healthy and avoiding illness.

  • Your family history and your lifestyle are just a few of the variables that affect your overall health. Learn more in How to Assess Your Health.
  • The word "cancer" strikes fear in anyone's heart -- the collection of diseases we know as cancer is the second-largest cause of death in the United States. Learn more in How Cancer Works.
  • A new vaccine is now available to protect against cervical cancer, the second-most common type of cancer in American women. Read How the Cervical Cancer Vaccine Works to learn more.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Breast Cancer Self-Exams

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Early detection of breast cancer improves your chances of survival.

Breast cancers are more treatable when they are detected in early stages. For this reason, have professional breast exams and mammograms as advised by your doctor. Follow your doctor's advice for breast self-examinations, too. 

If you are still menstruating, the ideal time to do a breast self-examination is within three days after your period has ended. For postmenopausal women, do it the same day each month. Conducting regular breast self-examinations will help you become familiar with the normal landscape of your breasts. In this way, any unusual lumps or growths that surface will be more obvious.

A thorough breast self-examination is done in three parts.

In the shower:

  1. Use your left hand to examine your right breast, and vice-versa.
  2. Start by pressing the pads of your middle fingers, held flat, along the collarbone and each area of your breast, including the tissue around the nipple and the underarm area. Work your way around in a circular, up-and-down, or wedge pattern from the outside of the breast inward toward the nipple.
  3. Carefully feel for lumps, knots, or changes in skin texture.

In front of a mirror:

  1. Stand, topless, with your hands at your sides and note the natural contour of your breasts.
  2. Raise your arms above your head and look for changes in the size, shape, and contour of your breasts. Also, note any dimpling, puckering, or changes in skin texture.
  3. Squeeze each nipple gently and look for nonmilky discharge (if you have given birth or nursed a baby within the last year, some clear or milky discharge is probably normal).

Lying down: 

  1. Lie down flat on your back with one arm raised over your head; it gives you one more angle and helps ensure a thorough examination. 
  2. Follow the same procedure for examining your breast in the shower.

Many factors work together to improve (or damage) your health and longevity. Visit these links to learn more about staying healthy and avoiding illness.

  • Your family history and your lifestyle are just a few of the variables that affect your overall health. Learn more in How to Assess Your Health.
  • The word "cancer" strikes fear in anyone's heart -- the collection of diseases we know as cancer is the second-largest cause of death in the United States. Learn more in How Cancer Works.
  • A new vaccine is now available to protect against cervical cancer, the second-most common type of cancer in American women. Read How the Cervical Cancer Vaccine Works to learn more.

Brianna Politzer is a freelance writer specializing in health, fitness, nutrition, and technology. She has contributed to many consumer publications, including The Home Remedies Handbook, Women's Home Remedies Health Guide, and The Medical Book of Health Hints and Tips.  This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.