When Melanomas are diagnosed in their earliest stage – confined within the top layer of skin – there is a successful cure rate. Therefore, the key to treating melanoma is recognizing it early. In addition to self-exams, it is also recommended that you get a yearly body check from a dermatologist.
Possible Signs of Melanoma:
- A new pigmented (colored) spot
- A change in the appearance of a pre-existing mole or pigmented area. A mole that:
- changes in size
- change in shape or contour
- change in color (there may be more than one color)
- change in character (itching, oozing, bleeding, open area)
- Satellite moles – new moles that grow near an existing mole
When conducting self-evaluations, the ABCD system may help you remember features that might be a symptom of melanoma.
ABCD’s of Melanoma:
- Asymmetry: One half of the abnormal area is different from the other half
- Borders: The lesion or growth has irregular edges.
- Color: Color is varied from one area to another, with shades of tan, brown, or black (sometimes white, red, or blue). A mixture of colors may appear within one lesion.
- Diameter: The trouble spot is usually (but not always) larger than 6 mm in diameter — about the size of a pencil eraser
If you are facing a delay in seeing a Dermatologist:
- Tell the receptionist that you are concerned about possible melanoma and that you need to be seen quickly
- Be available to make an appointment anytime you can be fit into the schedule
- You should know that not only dermatologists but also general or plastic surgeons are trained in safe removal of moles and early melanomas from the skin
- Try a hospital’s pigmented lesion clinic, melanoma center, or dermatology department in which you can make an appointment with a dermatologist without a referral
- Some hospitals offer Mole Exam Days frequently, where anyone can be examined. These are not walk-in clinics; you must call in advance, but if you let them know you have a lesion that is changing or looks like a melanoma they will do their best to schedule you quickly. All patients are accepted regardless of financial circumstances and, although services are not free, suitable payment terms can usually be arranged. Contact your local hospitals dermatology departments directly or the American Academy of Dermatology (888-462-3376) for information about this possible avenue.
- Don’t take no for an answer; be your own advocate