How should patients with basal cell carcinoma (BCC) be taught to perform self-exam for skin changes?

Updated: Mar 02, 2020
  • Author: Robert S Bader, MD; Chief Editor: William D James, MD  more...
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Answer

Educate patients on how to recognize any unexplained changes in their skin, especially changes that last for more than 3-4 weeks. Also, educate patients on how to examine their own and their partner's skin. The knowledge of mole distribution on the skin is helpful.

Tell the patient to first look at the front and back of his or her body in a full-length mirror, using a hand mirror. The patient also should use the hand mirror to look at the back of the neck and scalp, the back, and the breeches. The patient then should turn and look at each side of the body with the arms raised. Next, the patient should bend the elbows and look carefully at the forearms, the back of the upper arms, and the palms. Instruct the patient to sit down and check the backs of the legs and feet, including the spaces between the toes and bottoms of the feet.

The American Cancer Society recommends a dermatologic examination every 3 years for people aged 20-40 years and every year for people older than 40 years.

For patient education information, see Basal Cell Carcinoma.


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