Tips For Screening Moles For Cancer
Examine your skin on a regular basis. A common location for melanoma in men is on the back, and in women, the lower leg. But check your entire body for moles or suspicious spots once a month. Start at your head and work your way down. Check the “hidden” areas: between fingers and toes, the groin, soles of the feet, the backs of the knees. Check your scalp and neck for moles. Use a handheld mirror or ask a family member to help you look at these areas. Be especially suspicious of a new mole. Take a photo of moles and date it to help you monitor them for change. Pay special attention to moles if you’re a teen, pregnant, or going through menopause, times when your hormones may be surging.
What About Other Treatments I Hear About
When you have cancer you might hear about other ways to treat the cancer or treat your symptoms. These may not always be standard medical treatments. These treatments may be vitamins, herbs, special diets, and other things. You may wonder about these treatments.
Some of these are known to help, but many have not been tested. Some have been shown not to help. A few have even been found to be harmful. Talk to your doctor about anything youre thinking about using, whether its a vitamin, a diet, or anything else.
How Does The Doctor Know I Have Melanoma
A new spot on your skin or a spot thats changing in size, shape, or color may be a warning sign of melanoma. If you have any of these changes, have your skin checked by a doctor.
The doctor will ask you questions about when the spot on your skin first showed up and if it has changed in size or the way it looks. The rest of your skin will be checked. During the exam your doctor will check the size, shape, color and texture of any skin changes. If signs are pointing to melanoma, more tests will be done.
Read Also: What Are Some Treatments For Melanoma
Skin Cancer Diagnosis Always Requires A Skin Biopsy
When you see a dermatologist because youve found a spot that might be skin cancer, your dermatologist will examine the spot.
If the spot looks like it could be a skin cancer, your dermatologist will remove it all or part of it. This can easily be done during your appointment. The procedure that your dermatologist uses to remove the spot is called a skin biopsy.
Having a skin biopsy is essential. Its the only way to know whether you have skin cancer. Theres no other way to know for sure.
What your dermatologist removes will be looked at under a microscope. The doctor who examines the removed skin will look for cancer cells. If cancer cells are found, your biopsy report will tell you what type of skin cancer cells were found. When cancer cells arent found, your biopsy report will explain what was seen under the microscope.
Red White And Blue Hues
While melanomas are often depicted as dark-brown moles, they can actually present in a variety of colors. The cancer may have a blue tint to it, from deeper pigmentation, says Robert Brodell, M.D., a professor and chair of the Department of Dermatology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Or it can appear red, the result of an immune response. The body is attacking it. It knows it’s abnormal and it’s trying to defend itself, and you get inflammation, Brodell explains.
It’s also possible for a melanoma to look like a rash, says Quigley, and take on a pink hue. But when the spot doesn’t get better with creams and other treatments that normally nix a rash, you need to check and make sure that that’s not a skin cancer, she says.
Another sign of a melanoma can be lack of color. Some of these cancerous spots lose their pigmentation completely or partially, leaving a halo of white around a darker spot.
“And that’s something that gives us a little concern, Buchbinder says. Was the body recognizing something like a melanoma that was going wrong, and in its process of destroying the melanoma it destroyed some of the normal melanocytes in that area? It’s just one of those things that may kind of make you look a little closer at something.
You May Like: Can You Live With Skin Cancer
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Melanoma
Melanoma is a skin cancer that can show up on the skin in many ways. It can look like a:
Spot that looks like a new mole, freckle, or age spot, but it looks different from the others on your skin
Spot that has a jagged border, more than one color, and is growing
Dome-shaped growth that feels firm and may look like a sore, which may bleed
Dark-brown or black vertical line beneath a fingernail or toenail
Band of darker skin around a fingernail or toenail
Slowly growing patch of thick skin that looks like a scar
This early melanoma could be mistaken for a mole, so its important to look carefully at the spots on your skin.
What To Look For
Because skin cancers appear in many shapes and sizes, its important to know the warning signs associated with basal cell carcinoma , squamous cell carcinoma , melanoma, Merkel cell carcinoma and the precancer actinic keratosis .
If you see something NEW, CHANGING or UNUSUAL, get checked by a dermatologist right away. It could be skin cancer. This includes:
- A growth that increases in size and appears pearly, transparent, tan, brown, black, or multicolored.
- A mole, birthmark or brown spot that increases in size, thickness, changes color or texture, or is bigger than a pencil eraser. Learn the ABCDEs of melanoma.
- A spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab or bleed.
- An open sore that does not heal within three weeks.
Learn more about early detection at TheBigSee.org.
Recommended Reading: Is Melanoma Curable If Caught Early
How Do People Find Signs Of Melanoma On Their Own Skin
Performing a skin self-exam as often as recommended by your dermatologist is the best way. While examining your skin, you want to look for the following:
Mole that is changing in any way
Spot that looks different from the rest of the spots on your skin
Growth or spot on your skin that itches, bleeds, or is painful
Band of color beneath or around a nail
Sore that doesnt heal or heals and returns
The ABCDEs of melanoma can help you find changes to a mole, freckle, or other spot on your skin.
Questions To Ask The Doctor
- How far has the melanoma spread under my skin?
- Has it spread anywhere else?
- What treatment do you think is best for me?
- Whats the goal of this treatment? Do you think it could cure the cancer?
- Will treatment include surgery? If so, who will do the surgery?
- What will the surgery be like?
- Will I need other types of treatment, too?
- Whats the goal of these treatments?
- What side effects could I have from these treatments?
- What can I do about side effects that I might have?
- Is there a clinical trial that might be right for me?
- What about special vitamins or diets that friends tell me about? How will I know if they are safe?
- How soon do I need to start treatment?
- What should I do to be ready for treatment?
- Is there anything I can do to help the treatment work better?
- Whats the next step?
You May Like: Can You Get Skin Cancer On Your Scalp
Symptoms If Cancer Has Spread To The Lymph Nodes
Lymph nodes are part of a system of tubes and glands in the body that filters body fluids and fights infection.
The most common symptom if cancer has spread to the lymph nodes is that they feel hard or swollen. Swollen lymph nodes in the neck area can make it hard to swallow.
Cancer cells can also stop lymph fluid from draining away. This might lead to swelling in the neck or face due to fluid buildup in that area. The swelling is called lymphoedema.
Early Warning Signs Of Melanoma
The key to detecting melanoma early is to know what to look for and where to look for it. This isnt always easy, as melanoma can be a master of disguise. It may look like an age spot, a bruise, a sore, a cyst, a scar or a dark line beneath your nail. You may not feel a melanoma, but there are times that it may itch, hurt or bleed.
The ABCDE method may help you determine whether an abnormal skin growth may be melanoma:
- A is for asymmetry: Does the mark look different on each half?
- B is for border: Are the edges jagged or irregular?
- C is for color: Is your lesion uneven in color with specks of black, brown and tan?
- D is for diameter: Is your lesion getting larger?
- E is for evolving or elevation: Has your lesion changed in size, shape or texture over the past few weeks or months?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, or even maybe, see a dermatologist for a proper evaluation. The only way to be sure whether a mole is melanoma is to visit a doctor.
Other melanoma warning signs may include:
- Sores that dont heal
- Pigment, redness or swelling that spreads outside the border of a spot to the surrounding skin
- Itchiness, tenderness or pain
Also Check: How Do Doctors Test For Skin Cancer
A Sore That Doesnt Heal
Many skin cancers are first dismissed as being due to a bug bite, minor injury, or irritation, but become more obvious when they dont go away over time. If you notice a sore on your skin that refuses to heal, even if it seems to be healing but then reappears, talk to your healthcare provider. In general, any skin change that hasnt resolved on its own over a period of two weeks should be evaluated.
Read Also: Is Stage 0 Melanoma Considered Cancer
What Is Recurrent Melanoma
Recurrent melanoma refers to a recurrence of tumor at the site of removal of a previous tumor, such as in, around, or under the surgical scar. It may also refer to the appearance of metastatic melanoma in other body sites such as skin, lymph nodes, brain, or liver after the initial tumor has already been treated. Recurrence is most likely to occur within the first five years, but new tumors felt to be recurrences may show up decades later. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish recurrences from new primary tumors.
Don’t Miss: Is Metastatic Squamous Cell Carcinoma Curable
What Are The Survival Rates For Metastatic Melanoma
Survival rates for melanoma, especially for metastatic melanoma, vary widely according to many factors, including the patients age, overall health, location of the tumor, particular findings on the examination of the biopsy, and of course the depth and stage of the tumor. Survival statistics are generally based on 5-year survival rates rather than raw cure rates. Much of the success reported for the targeted therapies focuses on disease-free time because in many cases the actual 5-year survival is not affected. It is hoped that combination therapy discussed above will change that.
- For stage 1 , 5-year survival is â¥ 90%.
- For stage 2 , 5-year survival is 80%-90%.
- For stage 3 , 5-year survival is around 50%.
- For stage 4 , 5-year survival is 10%-25% depending upon sex and other demographic factors.
What Are The Signs Of Melanoma
Knowing how to spot melanoma is important because early melanomas are highly treatable. Melanoma can appear as moles, scaly patches, open sores or raised bumps.
Use the American Academy of Dermatologys ABCDE memory device to learn the warning signs that a spot on your skin may be melanoma:
- Asymmetry: One half does not match the other half.
- Border: The edges are not smooth.
- Color: The color is mottled and uneven, with shades of brown, black, gray, red or white.
- Diameter: The spot is greater than the tip of a pencil eraser .
- Evolving: The spot is new or changing in size, shape or color.
Some melanomas dont fit the ABCDE rule, so tell your doctor about any sores that wont go away, unusual bumps or rashes or changes in your skin or in any existing moles.
Another tool to recognize melanoma is the ugly duckling sign. If one of your moles looks different from the others, its the ugly duckling and should be seen by a dermatologist.
Also Check: How Do You Detect Skin Cancer
Melanoma With Unknown Primary
A particularly scary form of the illness occurs when melanoma forms in rare melanocyte cells in internal organs without any symptoms appearing on the skin. It can also occur when a tumor initially appeared on the skin but was fought off by the immune system, regressed and metastasized to another site inside the body. Unfortunately, no visible ways of detecting these rare occurrences of cancer are yet known. If melanoma has metastasized to internal parts of the body, cancer may exhibit advanced stage symptoms.
How Serious Is My Cancer
If you have melanoma, the doctor will want to find out how far it has spread. This is called staging. Your doctor will want to find out the stage of your cancer to help decide what type of treatment is best for you.
The stage describes the growth or spread of the melanoma through the skin. It also tells if it has spread to other parts of your body.
Your cancer can be stage 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4. The lower the number, the less the cancer has spread. A higher number, like stage 4, means a more serious cancer that has spread beyond the skin. Be sure to ask the doctor about the cancer stage and what it means for you.
Read Also: How To Protect Your Self From Skin Cancer
Melanoma Can Be Tricky
Identifying a potential skin cancer is not easy, and not all melanomas follow the rules. Melanomas come in many forms and may display none of the typical warning signs.
Its also important to note that about 20 to 30 percent of melanomas develop in existing moles, while 70 to 80 percent arise on seemingly normal skin.
Amelanotic melanomas are missing the dark pigment melanin that gives most moles their color. Amelanotic melanomas may be pinkish, reddish, white, the color of your skin or even clear and colorless, making them difficult to recognize.
Acral lentiginous melanoma, the most common form of melanoma found in people of color, often appears in hard-to-spot places, including under the fingernails or toenails, on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet.
The takeaway: Be watchful for any new mole or freckle that arises on your skin, a sore or spot that does not heal, any existing mole that starts changing or any spot, mole or lesion that looks unusual.
Acral lentiginous melanoma is the most common melanoma found in people of color.
What To Do If You Spot A Suspicious Mole
The five-year survival rate for Stage 1 melanoma is higher than 90 percent, according to The American Cancer Society. So start doing self-examinations if you aren’t already. The more familiar you are with the constellation of your moles, the more you know when something is new or wasn’t there before, Dr. George says. This way, if you have any suspicions or concerns, you can get it checked out straight away by a doctor.
Don’t Miss: What Are Some Early Signs Of Skin Cancer
Skin Cancer Is Easy To Self
One in five Americans is expected to develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Anyone can get it, regardless of skin color, age or gender.
Fortunately, skin cancer is one of the easiest of all cancers to diagnose. Further, if it is found early, it is relatively easy to treat. Because they are almost always visible on the skin, if the person is looking for changes, they are likely to find a skin cancer early.
The moral of the story: do self-examinations of your skin monthly.
Skin cancer can occur anywhere on the body, so be thorough. Check the nails, between the toes, and inside your mouth. Use a hand mirror to check hard to see areas, including your back and private places. When shampooing, feel around the scalp and glimpse through the hair.
How Do You Know If You Have Cancer
Cancer is a condition that can affect different tissues of the body, which can lead to various signs and symptoms, including weight loss, skin changes, and chronic cough. People who go through worrisome symptoms that dont go away should speak to a doctor about them. When Health Care experts detect cancer at an early stage, the chances of improving are higher.
But how do you know if you have cancer? There are different kinds of warning signs, depending on the gender of the patient, as well as the type of cancer.
Also Check: How Is Skin Cancer Detected And Diagnosed
What Does Melanoma Look Like
Melanoma is a type of cancer that begins in melanocytes . Below are photos of melanoma that formed on the skin. Melanoma can also start in the eye, the intestines, or other areas of the body with pigmented tissues.
Often the first sign of melanoma is a change in the shape, color, size, or feel of an existing mole. However, melanoma may also appear as a new mole. People should tell their doctor if they notice any changes on the skin. The only way to diagnose melanoma is to remove tissue and check it for cancer cells.
Thinking of “ABCDE” can help you remember what to look for:
- 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 .
- Evolving: The mole has changed over the past few weeks or months.
Melanomas can vary greatly in how they look. Many show all of the ABCDE features. However, some may show changes or abnormal areas in only one or two of the ABCDE features.