Check Yourself Out: 2 Self-Exams for Seniors

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It's not always easy finding the time to take care of you — the whole you (mind, body, and spirit). Between spending time with family, managing finances, planning trips, and keeping up with daily tasks, it can be easy to put your health and wellness last. And that can mean health problems later on.

Sure, Medicare covers a lot of things, but why not get ahead of your health with some self-care? You can get started with these self-exams. They're easy to do and so important for your well-being.


Check your skin

Did you know skin cancer is highly treatable when you catch it early? That's why it's so important to check your skin.

It's hard to see every square inch of your skin, so use a full-length mirror, hand mirror, magnifying glass, or even a loved one or friend to help. Look at the front, back, and sides of your body. Check out your forearms, underarms, and palms, too. And don't neglect the soles of your feet or the spaces between your toes. A friend or family member comes in handy to help you check your scalp and neck. And don't forget your bottom — it's one of your best bits.

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When you're checking, look for anything that changes, itches, or bleeds. Also check for the ABCDEs of melanoma, the most serious kind of skin cancer:

  • Asymmetry: one half of the mole does not match the other half
  • Border irregularity: the edges are ragged, notched, or blurred
  • Color: it varies from one area to another
  • Diameter: from one side to the other, it's greater than 6 mm (the size of a pencil eraser) when found, but can be smaller
  • Evolving: a mole or skin lesion looks different from the others or is changing in size, shape, or color

Check your breasts

Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death in women. Checking your breasts regularly can help you know what's normal for you. Then you can spot any changes as soon as possible. Look for changes in how your breasts and nipples look and feel, as well as any discharge coming from the nipples.

Check your breasts in the shower and when lying down. You can use the pads of your fingers to make a circular pattern from the outside to the center. Check the entire breast and armpit for any lump, thickening, or knot. Then grab a mirror and raise your arms overhead. Look for changes in contour of the nipples, and swelling, dimpling, or puckering.

Why check your breasts? Four in ten women who get breast cancer feel a lump first. If you do find a lump, don't be alarmed. Note what you find and see your doctor.

Remember these self-exams and commit to doing them regularly

These simple self-exams can have a big impact on your health. Try doing these self-exams once a month. It's easy to remember if you write it down, or set a calendar reminder on your phone or computer.

Life happens and it's easy to put things off. But taking the time to take care of you can make a big difference in your well-being. A simple spot today can turn into a big problem quickly. So if you think you've found something concerning, don't panic, but do see your doctor. Doing so will give you peace of mind and help you stay healthy.

Rachel Quetti is a health care writer at Aetna with experience in senior wellness, Medicare, commercial health care, and consumer engagement. When Rachel isn't trying out new fitness classes, she is cooking up fun, (mostly) healthy recipes in the kitchen. Rachel lives in Watertown, Massachusetts and has a degree in journalism from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

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