Among all types of cancers that develop in humans, skin cancer is the most common. One in every five Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they reach age 70, and skin cancers affect more than 1 million Americans each year. There are three basic types of skin cancers — basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. In today’s post, we will discuss melanoma as well as its warning signs and a brief overview of what may be involved in treatment for this type of cancer.
What Is Melanoma?
As we mentioned, melanoma is one of the three main types of skin cancer. It occurs due to the overgrowth of melanocytes, the type of skin cell that’s also responsible for melanin production. While melanoma can run in families, it often occurs due to sun exposure. Although melanoma is actually the least common type of skin cancer, it’s also thought to be the most malicious. It tends to spread quickly and often goes undetected, making it difficult to treat. It’s essential to conduct regular self-examinations of the skin to ensure any signs of melanoma are caught early.
Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Melanoma
Skin doctors will tell you that some of the most obvious signs of melanoma are moles that are asymmetrical in shape and/or color and moles that have changed in shape or size over time. If you have suspicions that existing moles look different now or that new moles have appeared, you should talk to your doctor to assess whether you may need melanoma treatments.
However, it’s important to note that the appearance (or changing appearance) of moles are not the only symptom associated with melanoma. Other warning signs include:
- Growths that are dome-shaped and translucent
- Itching, bleeding, or pain around existing moles
- Dark lesions in areas like the hands, fingers, feet, toes, mouth, nose, or genitalia
- Sores that do not heal or that continue to reopen
- Clusters of scaly lesions that are red or pink
- Dark streaks underneath the nails
- Blurry vision or partial loss of sight
Essentially, the best approach is this: see your doctor for anything involving your skin (or your general health) that seems new or different. You are in the best possible position to detect changes on your body, so be sure to be diligent and not to delay if you spot anything suspicious.
Taking the Next Steps
With skin cancer, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you do notice a new or changing mole or experience any of the other symptoms we’ve listed in this post, you should contact your dermatologist right away. Although the skin cancer survival rate is high for Stage 1 melanoma, diagnosed patients must undergo melanoma treatments as soon as possible to have the best chance of fighting the cancer. Whether or not you’ll need to pursue melanoma treatments will be determined by your doctor following an examination and a potential biopsy. The best melanoma treatments for a given situation will vary — but no matter what, it’s important to call your doctor immediately.
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