January is typically the time when many people embark on a set of New Year’s resolutions. Are yours involving a skin exam, or better a couple skin exam? Here is why two is better than one when it comes to skin exams.
There are good medical research studies to show us that teaching partners how to assist each other in partner-assisted skin self-examinations helps improve skin cancer detection. And may help save a life!
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the US. This year, almost 5 million patients will be treated for skin cancer, more cases than cancers of the breast, lung, prostate and colon COMBINED! Everyone is at risk for skin cancer, even patients with darker skin colors.
Most skin cancers are easily treated if caught early enough, and monthly skin self-examinations (SSE) are one of the ways to do this. A monthly head-to-toe SSE can be helpful for detecting melanomas early, when they are thin and most curable.
Performed regularly, SSE can become a habit that is quick and easy to incorporate into your daily routine. Once patients get the hang of it, it takes no more than 5 minutes to do it! One great way to get started is to see your dermatologist first to do a full skin examination in the office and review your existing moles and spots. A really thorough SSE involves looking at difficult-to-see body areas like the crown and back of the head, back, buttocks and posterior thighs, which can be hard to accomplish alone. This may be why very few solo patients actually follow through with monthly SSE.
It turns out that by teaching patients along with their partners to assist in SSE, we can improve the numbers of patients who actually follow through with monthly SSE at home! Not only can partners see those hard-to-see spots, they may be helpful in encouraging each other to remember their SSE. Having a partner present for the initial dermatologist visit can help to develop a confidence with their SSE exam skills that they can bring home with them. This may improve their ability to detect skin cancers early and may improve survival.
In the June 2015 JAMA Dermatology journal, researchers published even more evidence supporting the benefits of partner-assisted skin exams!
So, we will use these data to support SkinCare Physicians’ continued partner skin cancer screening efforts. Not only will we continue to run our hugely successful free “Couples Skin Cancer Screening” event every year at Valentine’s Day (last February we screened over 50 individuals at our public event), but we also encourage patients to bring a partner to observe and learn during routine yearly visits in our offices!
The AAD offers excellent resources for learning to do SSE at home. So, grab a partner, and visit their web site. SkinCare Physicians’ Dr. Tom Rohrer worked with the AAD to develop the video that appears on the site, in which they emphasize that involving a partner can be especially helpful for examining your back and other hard to see areas.
Have you and your partner scheduled your annual skin exam yet? Call SkinCare Physicians at (617) 731-1600 to get started with a habit that might save you and your partners’ life!