Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. Although most types of skin cancer tend to be easily treatable and non-life threatening, melanoma is much more serious and can easily spread to other parts of the body if not treated quickly and effectively. This form of skin cancer has the potential to be fatal if it progresses too far so it is tremendously important to recognize some key melanoma symptoms in order to seek immediate medical attention and treatment.
In order to help identify early melanoma symptoms, it is very important to look for any changes in the size, shape or color of a mole or other skin mark such as a birthmark. These changes may occur over a period ranging from several weeks to a month. The changes noted are typically based on what is referred to as the ABCDE rule.
- Asymmetry – This means that one half of the mole or skin growth does not match the other half
- Border irregularity – The edges of the mole may be uneven or ragged.
- Color – If the color of the mole or skin growth is not consistent throughout, it may indicate a possible problem.
- Be alert to moles which are larger than 6 mm in diameter. If the mole started out smaller and grew to this size or larger, seek immediate medical attention.
- Evolution is the last factor. If the mole or skin growth changes in size, shape, and symptoms such as bleeding or itching then it is a good idea to have it checked into further.
Other early signs of melanoma symptoms can include a thickening or raising of a mole which had been flush to the skin. In addition the surrounding skin may become red or swollen. And if the skin becomes itchy or tingling in spots this should be further investigated by a trained medical professional.
If the condition continues without treatment, the melanoma symptoms may include:
- Bleeding around the mole or other skin lesions
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Weight loss which has no cause
- A chronic cough
- Headaches or seizures
If these symptoms indicate a potential problem, seek immediate medical diagnosis from a dermatologist. They are best trained to identify and diagnose the melanoma. The first thing to be done is to perform a physical inspection of the skin to identify any areas of concern. If an area is noted, a biopsy of the affected spot is typically taken.
If a positive diagnosis is made, surgical removal of the mole is normally performed. If the melanoma has been identified in the early stages, the majority of the cancer can be removed surgically. Other treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy may be employed to kill any remaining cancer cells which could not be removed surgically.
If the cancer has spread beyond the affected mole or skin growth, then more extensive treatments would be required. This can include other surgical procedures and aggressive chemo or radiation therapy.
Unfortunately if the cancer has progressed too far, the effectiveness of treatments may be limited and the emphasis would be on controlling the spread of cancer and associated symptoms. In many cases the long term prognosis may not be good so it is vitally important to stay alert to any changes in your skin so that early detection, diagnosis, and treatment can occur and provide the best possible results.