Melanoma Symptoms

ABCDE Rule for Detecting Melanoma Symptoms

Melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer, although visible melanoma signs make it easier to catch and treat early compared to other forms of cancer. The best way to detect melanoma is through regular examinations for new or strange growths and changes to any moles. The following are the most common symptoms of melanoma and how to spot them.

Understanding Melanoma Types

There are a few melanoma types, but the most common is cutaneous melanomas that develop on the skin. Melanoma can develop on any area of the skin, but it’s most common on areas exposed to the sun, particularly the face, neck, chest, legs, and back. Cutaneous melanoma is described as:

  • Superficial spreading melanoma
  • Acral lentiginous melanoma
  • Lentigo maligna melanoma
  • Nodular melanoma

Melanoma can also rarely develop in the eyes (ocular melanoma) or the mouth or vagina (mucosal melanoma).

When melanoma spreads, it’s known as metastatic melanoma. In these cases, it usually spreads first to the lymph nodes then to other organs.

Where Does Melanoma Develop?

Melanomas can develop anywhere, although they are most common in areas exposed to the sun. Most people first develop melanoma on the legs, face, neck, arms, back, chest, or shoulders.

Sometimes they develop in areas that receive very limited sun exposure, such as the palms of the hands and fingernail beds. Hidden melanomas are more common in people who have darker skin tones. Hidden melanomas include:

  • Ocular melanoma of the eyes
  • Acral-lengtiginous melanoma of the fingernail beds
  • Mucosal melanoma in the digestive tract, mouth, nose, urinary tract, or vagina
Melanoma Signs: The ABCDE Rule

Melanoma usually displays as new spots on the skin or changes in the color, shape, or size of existing moles. The ABCDE rule is used to recognize potentially cancerous growths on the skin:

  • Asymmetry. A mole with an irregular shape or two halves that look different.
  • Border. Melanoma usually has a rough, blurred, irregular, or notched border or edges.
  • Color. Moles typically have an even color of black, brown, or pink. Changes in color or color distribution may indicate melanoma.
  • Diameter. Moles that are larger than 6 mm or the size of a pencil eraser are more likely to be melanoma than tiny moles.
  • Evolving. A mole that is changing in shape, size, or color is suspect.

There are also other warning signs of melanoma such as pigment spreading from the border of a spot on the skin into surrounding areas, redness or swelling beyond a mole’s border, a sore on the skin that won’t heal, changes in sensation like tenderness or itchiness, and changes in the surface of the mole like bleeding or bumps.

Melanoma pictures can help you understand what a normal and potentially cancerous mole looks like, but do not rely on melanoma pictures to determine whether or not you may have skin cancer. Always show your physician any areas that concern you.

Melanoma Staging

Melanoma staging is an important tool to evaluate how advanced the melanoma is and the best melanoma treatment option. Melanoma stages are based on the size and thickness of the melanoma, whether it has spread, and growth rate.

  • Stage 0: Cancerous cells are confined to the epidermis and have not spread.
  • Stage 1: Cancer cells have grown into the deeper layers of the skin but have not spread.
  • Stage 2: Cancer cells have grown deeper into the skin or have high-risk features but have not spread to the lymph nodes or other organs.
  • Stage 3: Cancer cells have spread to nearby lymph nodes but not other organs.
  • Stage 4: Also called metastatic melanoma, cancer cells have spread beyond the skin and local lymph nodes to distant organs, lymph nodes, and skin.

Depending on the stage of melanoma, your medical history, and other factors, melanoma treatment may include surgery to remove cancerous tissue, adjuvant therapy (interferon after surgery), radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy.

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