Symptoms of Melanoma
It can sometimes be very hard to tell the difference between an ordinary harmless mole and a melanoma. In the early stages melanoma may well be without any obvious symptoms.
Pain is a very good indicator that there is something wrong with our bodies. Unfortunately melanoma is a silent disease and in the majority of cases produces no pain whatsoever. Changes in the size, shape or color of an existing mole or the appearance of a new one often go overlooked. Because of this, diagnosis can sometimes be delayed. And due to the fast growing nature of the skin cancer and its ability to spread to other parts of the body, this could be life threatening.
It is a common misconception that all melanomas start in existing moles. In fact only a third of melanoma cases begin this way. The majority of melanomas start in normal looking skin - suddenly a freckle or mole appears without warning, often near an existing mole.
Bearing in mind that the majority of adults, particularly fair skinned people, have around 100 moles on the body and hundreds of freckles, it is important that we check them regularly. Certainly changes in the size, shape or color of any mole or freckle should sound warning bells.
Symptoms of Melanoma: ABCD
If you are concerned about a mole or freckle apply the ABCD rule:
Harmless moles are usually symmetrical meaning that they are fairly even looking all the way round. Melanomas are more like to be irregular in shape or asymmetrical.
The majority of moles usually have quite a defined smooth border. Jagged, irregular edges are common in melanomas
Normal moles are usually one shade of brown. A melanoma can be made up of more than one color such as various shades of brown, with sometimes signs of black, red, pink or even blue tinges
Ordinary moles are usually no more than 6mm in diameter. If a mole is more than 7mm across it could be a melanoma.
It's important to remember that the ABCD rule does not apply to all melanomas. There may be just one or two of the features present.
Other Warning Signs and Dysplastic Nevi
Other signs which could indicate melanoma are crusting or bleeding of a mole, and itching. These are quite common symptoms.
There is a condition known as dysplastic nevi whereby people have abnormal looking moles which contain pre cancerous cells. This does not mean that they will develop into full blown melanoma but they are more likely than normal moles to do just that. Only a dermatologist would be able to tell whether a mole is a dysplastic nevi or needs to be removed for further investigation. Certainly they should be closely monitored.
In its early stages melanoma is curable. However if the symptoms are ignored it can spread very quickly to other parts of the body particularly the brain and bones. If this occurs, in two out of three cases the disease is fatal.