examination elderly skin cancer

Doing a monthly skin examination at home can prevent the spread of skin cancer.

There are so many things to think about when providing care for a loved one. Perhaps you feel the strain of making sure the daily necessities are done: Providing meals, cleaning the home, doing laundry, caring for emotional needs, checking for safety, watching over financial issues. Truly, the responsibilities of a home caregiver are enormous.  With all the responsibility, perhaps you have overlooked the quick but important check for skin cancer.

Since older ones have decreased mobility, they may not be able to check their skin for suspicious marks. The National Institute of Health recommends that we check monthly for any changes in the skin.  The most common skin cancers, called basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, will likely be found on the parts of the body that have been regularly exposed to the sun. Check the head, face, neck, hands and arms. However, let’s not overlook a thorough examination of the skin’s surface, since melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer and can occur anywhere on the body.

What should a caregiver look for when making an examination? Note any changes in the skin, such as new growths, an unhealed sore, or moles that bleed.  With regard to existing moles, the NIH helps us to remember what specifically to look for, using the memory aid, “ABCDE’s”

 Skin Cancer Signs:

  • A: Asymmetry. Does the growth look different on one half than the other?
  • B: Borders that are irregular. Non-cancerous moles almost always have smooth borders.
  • C: Color changes. Moles should stay the same color and not be more than one color.
  • D: Diameter. Moles that are larger than the size of a pencil eraser should be checked.
  • E: Evolving. Be concerned if the growth changes in size, shape, symptoms, surface or color.

Since skin cancer is so easily treated and so dangerous if left untreated, it’s worth the few minutes a month to examine the skin of your loved one. If you find anything that concerns you, be sure to follow up with your loved one’s health care team right away.