Melanoma is a type of skin cancer. When found early and treated, the cure rate is nearly 100%. Allowed to grow, melanoma can spread to other parts of the body. Melanoma can spread quickly. When melanoma spreads, it can be deadly.
Anyone can get melanoma. It's important to take time to look at the moles on your skin because this is a good way to find melanoma early. When checking your skin, you should look for the ABCDEs of melanoma.
ABCDEs of melanoma
If you see a mole or new spot on your skin that has any of the ABCDEs, immediately make an appointment to see a dermatologist.
Signs of melanoma
The most common early signs (what you see) of melanoma are:
- Growing mole on your skin.
- Unusual looking mole on your skin or a mole that does not look like any other mole on your skin (the ugly duckling).
- Non-uniform mole (has an odd shape, uneven or uncertain border, different colors).
Symptoms of melanoma
In the early stages, melanoma may not cause any symptoms (what you feel). But sometimes melanoma will:
- Feel painful
Many melanomas have these signs and symptoms, but not all. There are actually different types of melanoma. One type can first appear as a brown or black streak underneath a fingernail or toenail. Melanoma also can look like a bruise that just won't heal.
How do dermatologists diagnose melanoma?
To diagnose melanoma, a dermatologist begins by looking at the patient's skin. A dermatologist will carefully examine moles and other suspicious spots. To get a better look, a dermatologist may use a device called a dermoscope. The device shines light on the skin. It magnifies the skin. This helps the dermatologist to see pigment and structures in the skin.
The dermatologist also may feel the patient's lymph nodes. Many people call these lymph glands.
If the dermatologist finds a mole or other spot that looks like melanoma, the dermatologist will remove it (or part of it). The removed skin will be sent to a lab. Your dermatologist may call this a biopsy. Melanoma cannot be diagnosed without a biopsy.
This biopsy is quick, safe and easy for a dermatologist to perform. This type of biopsy should not cause anxiety. The discomfort and risks are minimal.
If the biopsy report says that the patient has melanoma, the report also may tell the stage of the melanoma. Stage tells the doctor how deeply the cancer has grown into the skin.