Health & Wellbeing

Early detection is key! Everything you need to know about skin checking

Becoming familiar with your skin could save your life.
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As two in three Australians are diagnosed with some form of skin cancer by the time they turn 70, the need for good sun safety is a hot topic right now.  

Unfortunately, according to research from TAL, less than 30 per cent of respondents believe they are always vigilant in protecting themselves from skin cancer.  

Dr Priya Chagan, TAL general manager of health services, says in addition to limiting your exposure to sunlight and using sunscreens, examining yourself for moles can help with early detection of skin cancer and treatment. 

WATCH: Hugh Jackman encourages his fans to get their skin checked. Article continues after video.

“Early detection is key to preventing skin cancer. The most important thing you can do is regularly self-check your skin and get to know what your skin and existing spots look like so you can readily recognise changes,” she explains.  

dr-checking-patients-skin-with-magnifying-glass
Checking your skin regularly = early detection of cancer. (Credit: Getty)

How to self-check your skin?

Dr Chagan says self-checking is best done in a well-lit room and in front of a full-length mirror so you can check your whole body (including the areas where sun exposure isn’t direct).  

“Using a handheld mirror will help you with the areas of your body that are hard to see. A family member, partner or friend may be able to help you with these checks as well,” she explains.  

The Cancer Council of Australia advises a thorough self-examination of your skin every three months, or if you’ve had skin cancer removed or are at higher risk, a full skin examination every six months.  

mole-check
Get to know your skin. (Credit: Getty)

When should I get a professional check?

Professional skin checks and mole maps are often the most thorough means to check for skin cancers. 

During a professional examination, your GP or dermatologist uses a dermatoscope to examine your skin – allowing for a closer look at any suspicious spots than is possible with the naked eye.  

However, Dr Chagan explains that if you haven’t had skin cancer before or aren’t at any considerable risk of developing skin cancer, you can and should self-check at home safely initially.  

“Put yourself in the best position to notice changes, and as soon as you see something out of the ordinary, get a professional skin check,” Dr Chagan advises.

Does it cost a lot to get a professional check?

According to Dr Chagan, some professional skin checks, including head-to-toe skin mapping for people at higher risk of skin cancer, come with a fee that varies depending on your practitioner. 

“The good news is that those who are covered by Medicare will receive a rebate that covers a considerable portion of this, and sometimes the whole amount if the practice bulk bills (doesn’t charge a gap fee),” Dr Chagan says. 

Many GPs can also perform skin checks and may bulk bill depending on the doctor and individual circumstances.  

Want to find out more and book a skin check with you local GP? Head to TAL

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