Typically we expect melanoma to appear as a mole or an unfamiliar spot visible on our skin. We may imagine that it will show up on our arms, shoulders or legs while showering or during a skin self-exam. Sometimes, though, melanoma can develop in areas that we wouldn’t expect and are harder to detect on our own, such as the scalp. Read here all you need to know about the symptoms of melanoma on the scalp.
Scalp melanoma is one of the hardest to detect and one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer. Part of the reason for its deadly nature, many dermatologists speculate, is because it often goes unnoticed for so long, giving it a chance to spread to other areas of the body. A study by the University of North Carolina School of Medicine found that although only six percent of patients have skin lesions on the scalp and neck, they account for 10 percent of all melanoma deaths. While part of the reason these melanoma occurrences are considered more lethal is due to their lack of detection, some doctors think that the higher concentration of blood vessels in the scalp and proximity to the brain may also make this type of cancer more aggressive.
Symptoms of melanoma on the scalp
Melanomas on the scalp show the same general symptoms as other forms of melanoma. The ABCDE self check method still applies here. Typical symptoms of melanoma on the scalp include:
- indistinct borders
- an asymmetrical shape
- more than two distinct colors
- change in size over time
- size larger than a pencil tip (about ¼ inch)
How to detect melanoma on the scalp
To detect melanoma on the scalp early, it’s a good idea to ask someone to help you examine your scalp with a comb. If help from others is not possible, you can also use a bathroom mirror, a hand mirror, and a blow dryer to take a good look at your scalp. Your hairdresser could also be a great ally to your health; ask them to let you know if they see any suspicious moles or other skin spots. Lastly, use your hands to feel any tender bumps on your head as these may also be a sign of melanoma. If you notice anything, have your dermatologist look at it as soon as possible.
Prevention of melanoma on the scalp
Moles can easily develop on our scalp as this area is constantly exposed to the sun. While those of us who aren’t bald can’t slather sunscreen on our heads, we can protect this area by wearing hats or head coverings when we are out in the sun for a long period. Also, don’t forget to visit your dermatologist at least once a year for a complete head-to-toe skin cancer screening.