Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer and one whose risk dramatically increases with sun exposure. Knowing the symptoms of melanoma can be the key to detecting it early and saving your life. Melanoma typically begins as a new mole or skin growth, so its signs are usually visible. Take a look at the most common physical symptoms of melanoma below and learn how to identify it early.
New or changing moles
Melanoma usually appears on the skin as a new spot or growth or a change in an already existing mole. A normal mole is typically even in color, quite small and appears early in life. Most importantly, a normal mole remains the same – it won’t change or evolve. Be sure to also read up about symptoms of internal melanoma, whose symptoms are not always visible on the skin.
Symptoms of melanoma – know your ABCDEs
Dermatologists classify melanoma using the ABCDE self check method. This method shows you which signs to look out for when examining suspicious moles, spots or growths on your skin.
If a mole is crusting, bleeding or feeling numb, then it demonstrates signs of melanoma. If you notice one or more of these symptoms, contact a dermatologist immediately.
Advanced stages of melanoma
There are four stages of melanoma. In the first two stages, melanoma has not spread or metastasized and is limited to skin growths and ulcerations. In stage three, the melanoma has reached the lymph nodes, and in stage four, it has spread to other organs. At this point, other symptoms of melanoma appear:
- Your lymph nodes may be hard or swollen
- Hard lumps may appear in your skin
- You may lose your breath, have chest pain or noisy breathing or have a cough that won’t go away
- You may feel pain in your liver (the right side of your stomach)
- Your bones may feel achy
- Headaches that won’t go away
- Bowel issues or constipation
- You may feel extremely tired and fatigued
If you notice any of the above symptoms, it is vital that you contact your doctor immediately. Melanoma cannot be self-diagnosed and requires immediate treatment.
The best way to prevent melanoma is to limit your sun exposure and apply sunscreen frequently. Needless to say, tanning beds pose an additional risk factor. Those with fair skin are more at risk of developing melanoma as they have lower amounts of protective melanin (pigment) in their skin.
It’s important to check your body from head-to-toe frequently to detect any dangerous changes in moles or spots early. If you have any concerns about a skin spot, growth or other physical symptoms, get in touch with a dermatologist as soon as possible for a skin examination.
While the vast majority of moles and body marks are not cancerous, it’s always better to cautious about and careful with your skin.