Symptoms of melanoma:
A mole, sore, lump, or growth on the skin can be a sign of melanoma or other skin cancer. A sore or growth that bleeds, or changes in skin coloring may also be a sign of skin cancer.
The ABCDE system can help you remember possible symptoms of melanoma:
- Asymmetry: One half of the abnormal area is different from the other half.
- Borders: The edges of the growth are irregular.
- Color: Color changes from one area to another, with shades of tan, brown, or black, and sometimes white, red, or blue. A mixture of colors may appear within one sore.
- Diameter: The spot is usually (but not always) larger than 6 mm in diameter.
- Evolution: The mole keeps changing appearance.
The key to successfully treating melanoma is recognizing symptoms early. You might not notice a small spot if you don’t look carefully.
Even if you have carefully practiced sun safety all summer, it’s important to continue being vigilant about your skin in fall, winter, and beyond. Throughout the year, you should examine your skin head to toe once a month, looking for any suspicious lesions. Self-exams can help you identify potential skin cancers early, when they can almost always be completely cured. Use a hand mirror to check hard-to-see places. Call your doctor if you notice anything unusual. Have yearly body checks by a dermatologist, and examine your skin once a month.
First, for a successful self-exam, you obviously need to know what you’re looking for. As a general rule, to spot either melanomas or non-melanoma skin cancers (such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma), take note of any new moles or growths, and any existing growths that begin to grow or change significantly in any other way. Lesions that change, itch, bleed, or don’t heal are also alarm signals.
It is so important to catch melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, early that physicians have developed two specific strategies for early recognition of the disease: the ABCDEs and the Ugly Duckling sign.
Signs and Tests of Melanoma:
Your doctor will check your skin and look at the size, shape, color, and texture of any suspicious areas.
If your doctor thinks you might have skin cancer, that piece of skin will be removed and sent to a lab for examination under a microscope. This is called a skin biopsy. There are different types of skin biopsies. All or part of the growth will be removed.
A sentinel lymph node (SLN) biopsy may be done in some people with melanoma to see if the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
Once melanoma has been diagnosed, CT scans or other types of x-ray tests may be done to see if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.