Skin and Soft Tissue Self-examination (SSTSE) for Filipinos
Reynaldo O. Joson, M.D.
July 15, 2014
Definition of Terms
Skin is “balat” in the Pilipino language. It is what one sees on the surface of the entire body of a person.
Soft tissue will be used here to refer to the part of the body right under the skin and outside of the bone, joint, cartilage, ligament, and cavity that may be under it. More specifically, soft tissue consists of the layer underneath the skin that contains fats, nerves, blood vessels, connective tissues, and muscles.
Importance and Benefits of Skin and Soft Tissue Self-examination (SSTSE) for Filipinos
The single most important benefit of self- examination is detection of diseases early enough. Self-examination of the skin and soft tissue facilitates early detection of any diseases that may affect these parts of a person’s body. In particular, it facilitates early detection of life- threatening diseases such as cancers and severe infection.
With their superficial location, skin and soft tissue, as a group, is the most common part of the body affected by diseases. Although majority of the diseases affecting the skin and soft tissue are not life-threatening, by doing regular and thorough self-examination, the serious ones if present, can be detected early enough.
Again, with their superficial location, skin and soft tissue, as a group, can easily be subjected to a self-examination by any person and all human beings.
A skin and soft tissue self- examination is easy to do. It takes less than a minute to do it. It costs nothing.
For all the above mentioned reasons, all Filipinos should learn and develop a habit of doing self-examination of their skin and soft tissue throughout their lifetime – a simple and cost-nothing procedure which can facilitate early detection of diseases in these parts of the body which in turn is associated with a lot of health benefits such as higher chance of successful treatment and prevention of disfigurement and premature death.
What needs to be done next is for all Filipinos to learn how to do a thorough SSTSE and then, to do it on a regular planned interval throughout their lifetime.
When to Do Skin and Soft Tissue Self-examination
SSTSE can be done anytime.
SSTSE can be done at the time when a person feels or sees something unusual on his skin and soft tissue. It can also be done even when a person does not feel or see something unusual. It is highly recommended, however, that the SSTSE be developed into a health habit starting at the time when a person does not feel or see something unusual yet as this practice has a higher chance of detecting diseases earlier than doing SSTSE when there are symptoms already.
A regular SSTSE can be done anytime of the year and anytime of the day. However, a recommended regular planned interval is monthly – once a month. A day within the month should be identified as the day for SSTSE. The basis for the choice of a day is left to the person who is committed to do regular SSTSE. It can be a day easy to remember such as every first or last day or 15th day of the month or any favorite day each month. It can be in a day that has been chosen for another type of self- examination to be done, such as breast self-examination (BSE) for females. For BSE, for females with menstrual periods, the recommended time is 5 to 7 days after the last day. Thus, for females, the time to do SSTSE can be on the same day in which BSE is to be done.
How to do Skin and Soft Tissue Self-examination
FEEL for anything unusual on the skin and soft tissue such as soreness or pain.
LOOK for anything unusual on the skin and soft tissue of the entire body (from head to toe and limbs) such as:
- Change in the usual appearance of a previous skin mark and mole.
- Appearance of a lesion such as redness, rashes, wheals, wounds, and growth.
- Appearance of a bulge on the skin.
Use a mirror to facilitate doing the “look” part of the self-examination on the head and neck, chest, and back.
PALPATE the whole body from head to toe for anything unusual on the skin and soft tissue such as tenderness (pain on pressure) and mass.
Once anything unusual is felt, seen, and/or palpated, consult a physician as soon as possible. For those unusual changes discovered on looking, take pictures and show them to the physician during the medical consult.
Below are samples of pictures of skin and soft tissue diseases that, when familiarized, may facilitate a person’s doing a thorough self-examination and may assist in deciding on the urgency in consulting a physician.
Skin and Soft Tissue Infection
Presence of redness is strongly suggestive of inflammation and infection.
Mole or Nevus
Melanomas (A type of skin cancer – the most serious type)
[Look for unusual changes in existing moles such as in terms of size, border, symmetry, texture and color.]
Basal cell carcinoma (A type of skin cancer)
Squamous cell carcinomas (A type of skin cancer)
Soft Tissue Tumors Presenting as a Bulge on the Skin and a Palpable Mass under the Skin
Epidermal Cyst (Not a cancer)
Lipoma (Not a cancer)
Soft Tissue Sarcoma (A soft tissue cancer)
Do self-examination of the skin and soft tissue regularly and thoroughly.
Self-examination of the skin and soft tissue facilitates early detection of any diseases that may affect these parts of a person’s body. Once anything unusual is felt, seen, and/or palpated, consult a physician as soon as possible.
Early detection and treatment of skin and soft tissue diseases is associated with a lot of health benefits such as higher chance of successful treatment and prevention of disfigurement and premature death.