Melanoma is a type of skin cancer. It develops in melanocytes which are the pigment cells present in the skin. A potentially more serious skin cancer than other types, it may metastasize or spread to other parts of the body. This can lead to serious illness and could even result in death.
Every year in the United States, about 50,000 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed.
Most melanomas are visually obvious, occurring on the skin. Because of this, patients themselves are often the first to detect many melanomas. With early detection and diagnosis, most melanomas can be cured with relatively minor surgery.
What Does Melanoma Look Like?
Melanoma may appear as a new mole or as a change in the shape, color, size, or feel of an existing mole. Here is what is known as the ABCDE’s of melanoma to help you identify it:
Asymmetry: The shape of one half does not match the other half.
Border that is irregular: The edges are often ragged, notched, or blurred in outline. The pigment may spread into the surrounding skin.
Color that is uneven: Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, gray, red, pink, or blue may also be seen.
Diameter: There is a change in size, usually an increase. Melanomas can be tiny, but most are larger than the size of a pea (larger than 6 millimeters or about 1/4 inch).
Evolving: The mole has changed over the past few weeks or month.
Melanomas can vary greatly in how they look. Many show all of the “ABCDE” features while some show changes or abnormal areas in only one or two of the “ABCDE” features.
The texture of the mole may change in more advanced melanoma, becoming hard or lumpy. The skin on the surface may break down and ooze or bleed. The melanoma can also be itchy, tender, or painful.
See Your Dermatologist
While most people think an appointment with the dermatologist is only necessary if they have a suspicious mark or growth, it is recommended that you have a regular full body check once a year performed by a dermatologist. Your family physician could perform the check up, but as with any specialty, your dermatologist is an expert. They are more likely to find small tumors in the very early stages.
If you have a suspicious growth, don’t wait – see your dermatologist right away. Even so-called harmless basal cell cancers can be serious. These growths are usually easy to remove, but about 5 to 10 percent of the new cases each year can be resistant to treatment. They may continue to recur, requiring more extensive surgery. Some basal cells can be very aggressive, damaging the skin around them and even invading the bone and cartilage.
May is Melanoma Awareness Month, but you need to protect your skin all year long. Your dermatologist will certainly provide you with instructions on how to care for your skin. They may also recommend that you consult with a medical esthetician to guide you in protecting and caring for your skin.
At Vive Medical Weight Loss and Aesthetics, we offer a complete line of cosmetic skin care products and services including sunscreens, which are a necessity in the prevention against melanoma. Our medical esthetician can create a customized skin care regimen perfect for you.