Melanoma (patient information)
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Melanoma On the Web
Melanoma is a cancer that starts in the melanocytes. Although much less common than basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers, melanoma causes most skin cancer deaths. Usually, the first sign of melanoma is a change in the size, shape, color ,or feel of a mole. The ABCDE rule can help you tell a normal mole from an abnormal mole. Melanoma can be cured only if it is diagnosed and treated early. When it spreads to other parts of the body, the outlook could be very bad.
What are the symptoms of Melanoma?
Usually, the first sign of melanoma is a change in the size, shape, color, or feel of a mole. The ABCD rule can help you tell whether the mole is normal or not. Moles that have any of these signs should be checked by your doctor:
- Asymmetry: When one half of the mole does not match the other half.
- Border irregularity: The edges of the mole look ragged, blurred, or notched.
- Color: The color over the mole is not the same and may have shades of tan, brown, or black, and sometimes patches of pink, red, blue, or white.
- Diameter: The mole is larger than about 1/4 inch, although sometimes melanomas can be smaller.
- Evolution over time: The mole is growing or changing in shape or color.
Some melanomas do not fit the above mentioned "rules" and may be hard to tell if the mole is normal or not. Only a doctor can tell for sure. A person with any of these symptoms should seek medical care as early as possible.
Who is at highest risk?
Clinical data has suggested that the development of melanoma is related to several factors.
- Gender: Men have a higher chance of developing melanoma than women.
When to seek urgent medical care?
Patients with melanoma have many treatment options. The treatment plan depends on the stage of the tumor. The available treatment options encompass surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy , or a combination of these. Before treatment starts, ask your health care team about the possible side effects of treatment and how treatment may affect your normal activities. Since cancer treatments often damage healthy cells and tissues, side effects are common. The side effects may not be the same for every person, and they may change from one treatment session to the next.
Diseases with similar symptoms
Where to find medical care for melanoma?
Prevention of Melanoma
- Sun protection practices: Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreem, slap on a wide-brimmed hat, stay in the shade, wear sunglasses.
- Avoid other sources of UV light: Avoidance of tanning beds and sun lamps.
What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?
- The location and size of the tumor
- What You Need To Know About Moles and Dysplastic Nevi - patient information booklet from cancer.gov (PDF)
- MPIP: Melanoma patients information page
- Melanoma Support Organisation (Victoria, Australia) - Ran by Melanoma Sufferers with strong links to Cancer Institutes in Victoria, Australia
- Melanoma Patients Australia
- Mikes Page - The Melanoma Resource Center
- MEL-L - Melanoma e-mail list for patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals - Supporting the Melanoma Patient since 1996