While you probably know how to examine your breasts every month to catch the first signs of breast cancer, you may not realize that there are a lot of other checks that can help make sure your body’s in tip-top shape. These regular self-exams will often reveal any obvious red flags way quicker than if you wait for your annual doctor’s visit. The following five checks will help you tune you into your body and you can regularly do them at home. Remember, if you notice something strange, always consult your doctor immediately.
1. Examine your moles and beauty marks. Whether you call them beauty marks, freckles, or moles, checking your skin for changes is very important, as even the slightest variation could be a sign of skin cancer. “I typically ask patients to see their dermatologists once a year as a screening measure for skin cancer. People with fair skin or a family history of skin cancers may need to be screened more frequently,” Dana Corriel, MD says. “At home, patients should use the mnemonic ABCDE, which stands for asymmetry (not being even), border irregularity (not a round dot), color (not being uniform), diameter (greater than six millimeters or the eraser on the tip of a pencil), and evolving (in shape, size, or elevation).” Pay attention to your little spots and do your ABCDE check regularly.
2. Inspect your hair for spontaneous thinning. If you start to find that your hair is thinning relatively quickly, it may be time to take a trip to the doctor. “There are different causes of thinning, and one of them is a thyroid abnormality, which is usually easy and quick to test for,” says Corriel. While there are other causes for thinning hair too (for instance, too much vitamin A or iron deficiency), don’t be shy about asking your doctor to run a few checks if you find that your hair is thinning at an abnormal pace.
3. Keep a detailed log of your monthly period. Keeping track of your period can be the last thing you want to do when you’re bloated, cranky, and bleeding, but it’s actually a super important indicator of your overall health. “Keeping a monthly log of your period during your child-bearing years is very important,” notes Corriel. “It helps to ensure you period’s regular, in case you become pregnant or there’s an abnormality.” We suggest using a free menstruation tracking app like Period Tracker or iPeriod Period Tracker and making good use out of those super convenient push notifications to stay on top of it.
4. Check the color of your urine. That’s right, ladies! Although it seems super gross, taking a peek in the toilet after going number one can give you a great indication of your hydration level, according to Jane Miller, MD and associate professor of urology at the University of Washington. She recently partnered with Health to create a handy guide on what your different pee colors mean (spoiler alert: A pale straw color is hydration #goals).
5. Perform regular vulvovaginal checks (AKA examine your lady bits). “It’s important for women to become intimate with their own nether-regions,” notes Tsippora Shainhouse, MD. “Most women have never actually looked at the skin on their vulva and vagina and don’t know what their normal baseline is. Use a handheld mirror while sitting on the toilet to examine the skin for any bumps (that could be due to HPV), white or pink itchy or burning patches (that could be an inflammatory skin condition), as well as for new or changing moles and potentially melanoma.” At the end of the day, it’s important to know what your body looks like on an average day so that if anything is different you can quickly identify it and get it checked by a professional. Go forth and explore, ladies!
Are there any self-checks that we missed? Tweet us by mentioning @BritandCo.
(Photos via Getty)