Melanoma is an aggressive form of skin cancer that starts in the melanocytes, which are cells that produce pigments. It usually begins in tissues that are heavily pigmented, like moles and birthmarks. This form of skin cancer is often found in the chest, back, and palm, and in some rare cases, it can be found in the mouth, vagina, anus, or eyes. When detected early, this skin cancer can be treated successfully before it spreads to other parts of the body. Metastatic melanoma cannot be cured fully. Understanding the different signs and symptoms of melanoma will help in identifying them early enough and treating it.
Melanoma mostly develops in those areas of the body that are exposed to the sun, like the back, legs and face. It may also be seen in the palm of the hand and soles of the feet. The most common signs of this skin cancer are the changes noted in growths on skin, like in moles or birthmarks. The changes in the skin are noted based on the ‘ABCDE’ rule.
The changes should be checked by different categories, such as:
- Asymmetry –The growth of the mole or birthmark is asymmetrical on either side.
- Border irregularity – Edges of the mole are ragged or notched.
- Color changes – Irregular color patterns or an unusual color in one of the moles, when compared to others.
- Diameter – The size or diameter of the mole is large. A mole larger than six millimeters should be of concern.
- Evolution – Changes in the mole over a period of time. For example, a mole that grows in size, or changes in color, or development of itchiness or bleeding.
A mole may be showing signs of developing melanoma if:
- It thickens or raises
- Shows changes on its surface like bleeding, crusting, or scaling
- The surrounding skin shows changes like redness, swelling, or discoloration
- Starts itching or burning
As time passes by, the signs may vary. Some of the signs in the later stages include:
- Pain in the mole
- Bleeding from the mole
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Lump under the skin
- Gray skin
- Chronic cough
Melanoma may develop in hidden areas, like under the nail, digestive tract, in the eyes, and the urinary tract. Avoid self-diagnosis and never hesitate to meet the doctor if there are any unusual changes in the skin.