Early detection of melanoma is crucial as it can vastly increase the chances of cure. It is wise to check yourself by looking for anything new or unusual like marks or lumps on the body. Melanomas (skin cancer) commonly appear on the legs of women and for men is the trunk. But, melanomas can arise anywhere on the skin.
How to spot Melanoma?
Most moles, brown spots and growths on the skin are harmless, but there are some signs that can help you detect melanoma. Let’s discuss the ABCDEs of melanoma.
ABCDEs of melanoma-
A for Asymmetry. Most melanomas are asymmetrical.
B for Border. Melanoma borders are uneven and have notched edges that make them different from usual moles.
C stands for Color. Melanoma has different shades of brown, tan or black and as it grows, the colors red, white or blue also appear.
D is for Diameter or Dark. It’s a warning sign if a lesion is the size of a pencil or larger.
E is for Evolving. Any change in size, shape, color of a spot on your skin, or any new symptom in it, such as bleeding, or itching, is a warning sign of melanoma.
Please note, not all melanomas have the same appearance but if you notice these symptoms on your skin see a dermatologist immediately.
The ugly duckling
The Ugly Duckling is a recognition strategy based on the concept that most normal moles on our body resemble one another, but melanoma stands out like an ugly duckling when compared. This highlights the importance of comparing any suspicious spot to other moles to determine whether they look different from each other. These ugly duckling bumps can be larger, smaller, lighter or darker, compared to the other moles. Isolated bumps and lumps without other moles for comparison are considered ugly ducklings.
There are four types of melanomas, let’s discuss them below:
- Superficial melanoma
This is the most common type and it often tends to appear on the trunk or limbs of the individual. The cells grow slowly at first but in time it spreads across the surface of the skin.
- Nodular melanoma
This appears on the trunk, head, or neck of the individual. It tends to grow quicker than any other type, and it appears to be reddish or blue-black in colour. It is also known as the most aggressive type.
- Lentigo maligna melanoma
This is not that common but it tends to develop in older adults, mostly in parts that have had excessive sun exposure over several years. It starts as a freckle, which looks like a stain.
- Acral lentiginous melanoma
This is the rarest kind of melanoma and one should look out for it. It appears on the palms of your hands, soles of the feet, or under the nails, basically, in places we could ignore. People with darker skin do not usually get the other types of melanoma, but this type tends to be the most common among those with darker skin.
Melanoma can be tricky to spot
In its early stages, melanoma can be difficult to detect as it looks like a harmless spot on the skin. It is important to check the skin for any signs of changes that feel different. Alterations in the appearance of the skin like sudden spots or growing moles are a vital indicator of melanoma. Doctors use them while diagnosing this condition.
The Melanoma Research Foundation ( https://melanoma.org/melanoma-education/what-melanoma-looks-like/ ) offer visuals of melanoma moles and normal moles to help a person understand how to tell the difference.
Here is a list of some symptoms that should prompt a person to visit the doctor:
- any skin changes, like a new spot or mole or a change in the color, shape, or size of the existing ones
- skin sore that fails to heal
- spot or sore that has become painful, itchy, or tender
- spot or sore that has started bleeding
- spot or lump that looks kind of shiny, waxy, smooth, or pale
- firm, red lump that has been bleeding or looks ulcerated or crusty
- flat, red spot that feels rough, dry, or scaly
What can be done?
The treatment of skin cancer is almost similar to that of other cancer treatments. Unlike many cancers inside the body, it is easier to access the cancerous tissue and remove it completely when it comes to skin cancer. This reason why surgery is the standard treatment option for melanoma.
The surgery procedure involves removing the lesion and the noncancerous tissue around it. Once the surgeon removes the lesion, it is sent to pathology to determine the extent of the involvement of the cancer, and this is to make sure that they have removed all of it.
A skin graft may be necessary If melanoma covers a large area of skin. If there are any risks that the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, the doctor may request a lymph node biopsy.
Another recommendation can be radiation therapy for treating melanoma, especially in the later stages.
Melanoma can metastasize to other organs. If this happens, it is usually requested treatments depending on where the melanoma has spread, this includes:
chemotherapy, where medications are used that target the cancer cells
immunotherapy, where drugs is administered that work with the immune system to help fight the cancer
targeted therapy, it is used for medications that identify and target particular genes or proteins specific to melanoma.
It is wise to look for a dermatologist near you who accepts Medicaid, as they can give you immediate care and the right advice. If you live in Florida consider Premier Medical Dermatology for physicians immediate care.