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What To Do If I Think I Have Melanoma

Should I Be Checked For Skin Cancer

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The best way to protect yourself from skin cancer is to use sun protection and have regular skin examinations by a doctor who is trained in using dermoscopy . If you are at high risk of skin cancer , full skin examinations are recommended every 6 months.

Early detection of skin cancer can improve the chances of successful treatment. You should become familiar with your skin, even the skin that is not normally exposed to the sun, and tell a doctor if you notice any change in shape, colour or size of a mole or freckle, or if you develop a new spot.

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The purpose of the Southern Cross Medical Library is to provide information of a general nature to help you better understand certain medical conditions. Always seek specific medical advice for treatment appropriate to you. This information is not intended to relate specifically to insurance or healthcare services provided by Southern Cross. For more articles go to the Medical Library index page.

Questions To Ask About Having Adjuvant Or Systemic Treatment

  • What type of treatment is recommended?

  • Does my melanoma have a BRAF genetic mutation or other known mutation? Is targeted therapy or immunotherapy an option?

  • What is the goal of this treatment?

  • How long will it take to have this treatment?

  • Will I receive this treatment at a hospital or clinic? Or will I take it at home?

  • What side effects can I expect during treatment?

  • Who should I contact about any side effects I experience? And how soon?

  • What are the possible long-term effects of having this treatment?

  • What can be done to prevent or manage these side effects?

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May Have Skin Cancer Am Very Scared And Don’t Know What To Do

Just come back from the doctors to check a mole in my head area. He felt it was a worrying shape, size and colour and will refer me for a biopsy. He was one of those ‘call a spade a spade’ doctors which is fine and appreciated but he seemed pretty clear that he thought it could very likely be melanoma/skin cancer..gosh don’t even know what is what of those two?Have been googling and seen depressing figures like survival rates of 5 or 10 years!!! Am only 40!!The big problem is he said I could get a referral within 2 weeks for biopsy etc but have a holiday booked with dd next week and meant to be going for 3 weeks! I am not sure I can go on holiday with this hanging over me so considering cancelling it. Also part of me thinking if it is cancer then maybe I should go off and have a good time .Sorry, just so confused and shocked right now, thinking if I had spotted it earlier etc.Can I go private and get biopsy done even quicker? It is just the waiting that is awful. Tbh when he showed me the close up photo of the mole it does look bloody awful. Am terrified I am riddled with cancer now.Am I being stupid and overreacting? Anyone been through this?Thank you

yes, you could get a private removal/biopsy quicker, but it’s pricey.but do call skin clinics ask for appointments/prices. .hope you have got travel insurance in case you need to cancel your holiday.

What Are The Symptoms

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You may not have any symptoms in the early stages of melanoma. Or a melanoma may be sore, or it may itch or bleed.

Any change in the shape, size, or colour of a mole may be a sign of melanoma.

Melanoma may look like a flat, brown or black mole that has uneven edges. Melanomas usually have an irregular or asymmetrical shape. This means that one half of the mole doesn’t match the other half. They may be any size but are usually 6 mm or larger.

Melanomas can be found anywhere on your body. Most of the time, they are on the upper back in men and women and on the legs of women.

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Biological Therapies And Melanoma

Biological therapies are treatments using substances made naturally by the body. Some of these treatments are called immunotherapy because they help the immune system fight the cancer, or they occur naturally as part of the immune system. There are many biological therapies being researched and trialled, which in the future may help treat people with melanoma. They include monoclonal antibodies and vaccine therapy.

Most Melanoma Does Not Start In A Preexisting Mole

Melanoma can develop in a preexisting mole, says Dr. Marghoob, but nearly 70% of skin melanomas do not. Rather, they occur in normal skin. Moles themselves are not cancerous, and it is extremely rare for a mole to transform into a melanoma, says Dr. Marghoob. That said, he adds, having many moles helps identify people who are at an increased risk for developing melanoma somewhere on their skin.

Since most melanoma develops on normal skin, Dr. Marghoob stresses the importance of protecting the entire surface of the body, including areas with many moles and areas without any moles. Some people use sunblock only where they have moles because they think the moles themselves are dangerous, adds Dr. Marghoob. Stay safe by applying broad-spectrum sunblock with an SPF of at least 30, wearing sun-protective clothing, or using a combination of the two approaches.

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Stress Hair Loss And Body Image

  • The diagnosis of melanoma and the need for treatment can be very stressful. You may be able to reduce your stress by expressing your feelings to others. Learning relaxation techniques may also help reduce your stress.
  • Hair loss can be emotionally distressing. Not all chemotherapy medicines cause hair loss. And some people have only mild thinning that is noticeable only to them. Talk to your doctor about whether hair loss is an expected side effect with the medicines you will receive.
  • Your feelings about your body may change following a diagnosis of melanoma and the need for treatment. Adapt to your body-image changes by talking openly about your concerns with your partner and discussing your feelings with your doctor. Your doctor may also be able to refer you to groups that can offer more support and information.

Having cancer can change your life in many ways. For help in managing these changes, see the topic Getting Support When You Have Cancer.

Early Warning Signs Of Melanoma

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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

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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.

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.

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Questions To Ask After Getting A Diagnosis

  • What type or subtype of melanoma do I have?

  • Can you explain my pathology report to me?

  • What stage is the melanoma? What does this mean?

  • What is the depth of the melanoma in millimeters?

  • Is the melanoma ulcerated?

  • Does the melanoma have mitotic activity?

  • Is it likely that the melanoma has spread? Why or why not?

Can You Prevent Melanoma

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The best way to prevent all kinds of skin cancer, including melanoma, is to protect yourself whenever you are out in the sun.

  • Try to stay out of the sun during the middle of the day .
  • Wear sun-protective clothes when you are outside, such as a hat that shades your face, a long-sleeved shirt, and long pants.
  • Use sunscreen every day. Your sunscreen should have an SPF of least 30. Look for a sunscreen that protects against both types of UV radiation in the sun’s raysâUVA and UVB. When you are outdoors for long periods of time, reapply sunscreen every 2 hours.
  • Take extra care to protect your skin when you’re near water, at higher elevations, or in tropical climates.
  • Avoid sunbathing and tanning salons.

Check your skin every month for odd marks, moles, or sores that will not heal. Check all of your skin, but pay extra attention to areas that get a lot of sun, such as your hands, arms, and back. Ask your doctor to check your skin during regular physical examinations or at least once a year.

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What You Should Ask

Asking questions about your diagnosis and your treatment will help you feel more in control of what happens to you, more involved in your care, and will also make the decision making process easier.

You may have a lot of questions for your doctor and clinical team, but often those questions might occur to you over a period of time. You may find it helpful to write down your questions so that you dont have to remember them at your appointments, or forget to ask an important question. It can also be very helpful to take a support person a family/whanau member or close friend with you to appointments. He or she may think of question you havent thought of or remember questions you might have forgotten.

Sometimes you get a lot of information in a short space of time at appointments, so you might want to write down the answers to your questions. Likewise, having someone there to support you will help they can write things down for you and may remember things you have been told and later forget.

You might even want to record your discussions with your doctors, with their consent, to listen to later.

Ask your doctors to write down anything you dont understand, or terminology you are not familiar with. You can even ask them to draw you a diagram if that will help you understand what they are telling you.

What To Do If You Have Skin Cancer

With the number of people diagnosed with skin cancer continuing to increase, I think it is essential for everybody to be prepared to be informed that they have skin cancer and/or precancerous sores. Due to the fact that many individuals discover the word cancer to be frustrating, I want to help you be prepared and form the best concerns to ask your dermatologist if you are detected with skin cancer.

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What Will Happen After Treatment

Youll be glad when treatment is over. For years after treatment, you will see your cancer doctor. Be sure to go to all of these follow-up visits. You will have exams, blood tests, and maybe other tests to see if the cancer has come back.

At first, your visits may be every few months. Then, the longer youre cancer-free, the less often the visits are needed. After 5 years, they may be done once a year.

Having cancer and dealing with treatment can be hard, but it can also be a time to look at your life in new ways. You might be thinking about how to improve your health. Call us at 1-800-227-2345 or talk to your cancer care team to find out what you can do to feel better.

You cant change the fact that you have cancer. What you can change is how you live the rest of your life making healthy choices and feeling as good as you can.

Avoid Harsh Skin Care Ingredients Near Or On The Suspicious Site

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Im all for increasing the rate of cellular turnover in the skin Retinoids, for instance, are known to increase cellular turnover and result in fresh, less lined skin . And we all know how fresh we look after an alpha hydroxy acid-based chemical peel, especially at concentrations of 15% or higher. Ooo la la!

But as much as I am for anti-aging, cell turnover-increasing ingredients, keep in mind that skin cancer is a form of cancer, indicative of uncontrolled cell growth and maturation. I would personally go back to a very basic cleanser and moisturizer near and on the suspicious site. I also would personally avoid agents that are known to aggravate the skin, including:

  • Alpha hydroxy acids
  • Beta hydroxy acids
  • DNA repair enzymes

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What Causes Familial Melanoma

Familial melanoma is a genetic or inherited condition. This means that the risk of melanoma can be passed from generation to generation in a family. To date, 2 genes have been primarily linked to familial melanoma they are calledCDKN2A and CDK4. A mutation in either of these genes gives a person an increased risk of melanoma. However, alterations in these 2 genes only account for a small percentage of familial melanoma.

CDKN2A is unusual because it affects 2 separate proteins that have different functions one is called p16, and one is called p14ARF. Both CDKN2A and CDK4 play important roles in controlling when cells divide. Studies of families with mutations in CDKN2A from Europe, North America, and Australia have shown that the risk of melanoma varies by geographic area. The reasons for these differences are not fully understood. There may be differences in the amount of sun they receive, other individual or genetic differences, or a combination of these factors. In addition, there may also be an increased risk of pancreatic cancer.

Within melanoma-prone families with known genetic mutations, dysplastic nevi and sun exposure are independent risk factors for melanoma. Recently it has been discovered that variations in another gene, MC1R, alter the risk of melanoma, both in individuals with CDKN2A mutations and in individuals without CDKN2A mutations. MC1R is important in regulating pigment in the body variations have been associated with freckling and red hair.

Skin Exam And Physical

If youve been diagnosed with melanoma, youve already had a skin biopsy. This biopsy was taken when you had part of the suspicious spot removed. After it was removed, a doctor looked at the spot under a microscope to find out if it contained cancer cells. This is currently the only way to tell if someone has skin cancer.

After getting the diagnosis, the next step is to get a complete skin exam and physical.

During the physical, your dermatologist will feel your lymph nodes. This is where melanoma usually goes when it begins to spread. It usually travels to the lymph nodes closest to the melanoma.

If there is a risk the cancer could have spread, your dermatologist may recommend that you have a lymph node biopsy. If a sentinel lymph node biopsy is recommended, it can be performed at the time of your surgery for melanoma.

After the skin exam and physical, your dermatologist may recommend testing, such as a CAT scan, MRI, or a blood test. These can also help detect spread.

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