Health And Wellness

5 Important Self-Exams You Should Be Doing At Home For Better Health

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woman checking face

Regular doctor check-ups are an essential part of making sure we stay healthy.

But it's not always an ideal situation to visit the doctor's office, especially when healthcare isn't quite affordable for everyone. That’s why it's so important to give yourself health checks and self-exams at home so you don’t neglect your body’s needs.

Being aware of your body's regularities will help you catch any changes that might indicate health issues. Because getting to know your body is key to taking care of yourself.

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Here are 5 self-exams to perform at home for better health.

1. Observe your skin and check any moles.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosis in the United States. This is a dangerous disease but easily treated if caught early.

In order to catch any alarming signs, you need to take a look at your skin regularly. Taking photographs of any bumps and moles will help you track the changes in your skin. If your moles are changing shape, color, or size it might be time to see a doctor.

Look out for bumps that are different from other freckles or moles on your skin. Follow the ABCDE method when checking your skin for concerning moles: A for asymmetrical; B for irregular borders; C for abnormal color; D for diameter (they shouldn’t be larger than 1 cm); E for evolving, meaning the mole changes appearance over time.

Skin that bleeds easily and has pink, scaly spots that won’t go away after moisturizing could also be symptoms of UV damage. Don’t forget to check your back, groin, nails, and even between your toes.

2. Examine your breasts.

First of all, it’s worth noting that a lot of experts discourage these self-examinations because they can lead to unnecessary biopsies. But it doesn’t hurt to at least be aware of your breasts so you might catch any harmful abnormalities early.

Have a feel around at night or in the shower by moving two fingers in a circular motion around your breast tissue. Start underneath your armpit and work your way into the middle.

A cancerous mass may be a soft or hard lump beneath the surface of the skin. Lumps aren’t the only cause for concern though, so look out for skin dimpling and bruises that don’t fade. You should also make sure your nipples aren’t discharging any liquid.

Observe any irregularities at several stages throughout your menstrual cycle as lumps and bumps may go away after your period.

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3. Do an oral test for gum health.

Pulling your lips apart and looking into your mouth might not seem like the most appealing of activities, but we should all be doing it (especially if you smoke!).

For this one, a small mirror and your phone’s flashlight will be your tools. Look at your gums, starting from the front of your mouth and working your way back. No parts should be too red in color or extremely sensitive.

Lean your head back and take a good look at the roof of your mouth. Notice any discoloration or unusual growths?

The same goes for your tongue. Note if there are any changes to the color and texture, or if any sores form. Contact your dentist if you notice anything out of the ordinary.

4. Perform a check on your private areas as well.

Everyone has them, but not everyone is familiar with how theirs looks.

Sitting down with a mirror and tucking your knees up to your chest is a simple way to look out for genital warts or sores, as well as any other irregularities that form over time. Vaginal discharge is normal, but you should speak to a doctor if it changes consistency to be thick or foamy, and appears yellow, green, or gray.

Testicular cancer can also be caught early with a simple self-check. Checking in the mirror for scrotum swelling or any changes in the shape and consistency of testicles will help you to keep track of abnormalities.

Note that testicles do have blood vessels, tissues, and tubes that might feel like lumps, so getting to know what’s normal and what’s not on your body is key to being aware of your health.

5. Keep an eye on your waste.

Probably not the classiest of ways to pass the time, but our feces actually tells us a lot about our overall health. Shying away from talking about irregularities in your excretion could pose a serious health risk for you.

Look for any spots of blood in your waste; if it’s extremely dark in color, this could be a sign of an ulcer or a GI bleed. If it's regularly narrow or you experience frequent constipation, your doctor might want to give you a colonoscopy to check for rectal cancer.

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Alice Kelly is YourTango’s Deputy News and Entertainment Editor. Based in Brooklyn, New York, her work covers all things social justice, pop culture, and human interest. Keep up with her Twitter for more.