If it is discovered in its early stages, it is usually highly treatable; however, if it spreads to the lymph nodes and organs, the survival rate drops dramatically.
According to statistics from the American Cancer Society, the estimated five-year survival rate for stage one melanoma is 92-97%, for stage three it is approximately 40-59% and for stage 4 it drops to only 15-20%.
The key is knowing what to look for to catch the cancer before it has a chance to spread. Read on to learn the main warning signs of melanoma so you know what to look for.
The first signs
Melanoma will often first begin as a change or evolution in a pre-existing spot or mole or as the appearance of a new mole.
It’s important to know the difference between a normal mole and a potentially cancerous mole. A key warning sign is if the mole or mark looks different from others on your skin.
A normal mole will be smooth, even in color, quite small and have distinct edges. Most importantly, a normal mole will usually stay the same, not changing or evolving much over time.
Identify a cancerous mole — the ABCDE method
One handy way to remember what skin cancer looks like is the ABCDE method. This tool covers some of the most common symptoms of melanoma skin cancer that appear on the skin.
· A – Asymmetrical Shape
Melanoma lesions are often irregular, or asymmetrical, in shape. Benign moles are usually symmetrical.
· B – Border
Non-cancerous moles usually have smooth, even borders. Melanoma lesions will often have fuzzy, irregular borders.
· C – Color
The presence of more than one color (blue, black, brown, tan, etc.) or the uneven distribution of color can sometimes be a warning sign of melanoma. Benign moles are usually a single shade of brown or tan.
· D – Diameter
Melanoma lesions are often greater than 6 mm in diameter (approximately the size of a pencil eraser) while normal moles will usually be 6 mm or smaller.
· E – Evolution
The evolution of a mole or growth is one of the most important factors to consider when it comes to diagnosing melanoma. That’s why it’s essential for individuals to take note of what is normal for their body. Melanoma lesions will often have gone through recent changes in color and/or size while non-cancerous moles will usually stay the same over time.
If you notice one or more of these symptoms, be sure to schedule an appointment with your doctor or dermatologist right away to get the mole or mark checked out.
Other warning signs of melanoma include if a mole or growth:
· develops a crust or a scab
· sometimes bleeds or oozes
· is itchy
· feels tender
· gets bigger or swells
· has a changing surface texture, such as becoming scaly or developing a lump
It’s important to note that the ABCDE method doesn’t cover all forms of melanoma or skin cancer.
Learn about the other, rarer symptoms of melanoma and symptoms of non-melanoma skin cancers.