What Are The Symptoms Of Melanoma?

Melanoma is often painless and usually produces the following signs:

  • A change in the size, color, shape, or feel of an existing mole
  • The appearance of a new growth or mole on the skin

Need To Know:

What changes in moles or freckles can indicate cancer?

Melanomas may form from an existing mole or freckle, or begin to grow from a normal-appearing area of the skin. Any change in a mole’s appearance or the growth of a new mole may be a sign of skin cancer. Suspicious moles or freckles should be checked by a doctor.

Melanomas vs. normal moles:

  • Moles and freckles usually are brown or black and have a defined edge or border.
  • Melanomas usually are multi-colored. They may combine different shades of brown and black, sometimes with areas of red, blue, or white. They often have an irregular or uneven border.
  • Be alert for moles or freckles that ooze fluid or blood, crust or clot over, and then ooze or bleed again and don’t heal-they could be a sign of cancer.

Melanomas often show the ABCD symptoms:

  • Asymmetry, when one half of the growth has a different shape than the other.
  • Border irregular, when the growth has scalloped or uneven edges.
  • Color varied, when the growth is more than one color. Melanomas may be black, shades of brown and tan, and even have specks of red, white, and blue.
  • Diameter, when the size, measured edge to edge, is bigger than the diameter of a pencil eraser.

Watch for the ABCD signs when doing skin self-examination. Regular skin self-examination allows individuals to keep watch on moles and other skin growths. When existing growths change or new growths appear, check with the doctor. Like other forms of cancer, melanoma is most curable when diagnosed and treated early.

How-To Information:

How To Do a Skin Self-Examination

Your chances of finding skin cancer can be improved by performing a regular skin examination at home. Follow these tips:

  • A good time for skin self-exam is right after a bath or shower.
  • Do the exam in a well-lighted room. Use a full-length mirror and a hand-held mirror.
  • Learn where your birthmarks, blemishes, and moles are and what they look like. Be aware of anything new, such as a change in size, color, or texture of a mole, or a sore that does not heal.
  • Check your entire body, not just the readily visible areas.

By checking your skin regularly, you will become familiar with what is normal. If you find anything unusual, see your doctor right away. Remember, the earlier skin cancer is found, the better the chance for cure.

The following self-exam routine should take no more than 15 minutes:

  1. Look at the front and back of your body in the mirror, then raise your arms and look at the left and right sides.
  2. Bend your elbows and look carefully at your palms; forearms, including the undersides; and the upper arms.
  3. Examine the back and front of your legs. Also look between your buttocks and around your genital area.
  4. Sit and closely examine your feet, including the soles and the spaces between the toes.
  5. Look at your face, neck and scalp. You may want to use a comb or a blow dryer to move hair so that you can see better.

Nice To Know:

Q. My mother had melanoma. I’m worried that I may get it, too, especially because I have a lot of moles on my skin. What kind of medical checkups are recommended?

A. Melanoma does run in families. If your parents had melanoma, your own risk may be higher than normal – especially if you have many moles of a certain kind. Your primary care doctor should do a total skin examination at each routine physical examination. That involves inspecting every inch of your skin, including the genital region and the area between the buttocks. If the doctor spots suspicious growths, you’ll probably get a referral to a dermatologist. Once you know that your skin is normal, get in the habit of doing regular skin self-examination to watch for new growths or changes in existing growths.

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