Signs of Melanoma

Signs of Melanoma

Cancer of any type is a scary thought. Notably, however, skin cancer is one of the few that doctors often speak of curing rather than simply controlling.

Even melanoma, which the American Academy of Dermatology labels as the “deadliest form of skin cancer,” often responds well to specialty care and is potentially curable. What’s the catch? Early diagnosis and treatment.

Dr. Alexander Stein of Stein Dermatology and Skin Surgery is widely respected for his medical skill and expertise as a board-certified dermatologist and Mohs surgery specialist. He offers a full suite of medical and cosmetic skin care services at his busy practice in Chula Vista, California, including effective treatment for all types of skin cancer.

Here’s what Dr. Stein and his team want you to know about the signs and symptoms of melanoma.

What makes melanoma so dangerous?

The three most common types of skin cancer are:

Each of these cancers are named for the skin cells in which they originate. Melanoma starts in the melanocytes, which are responsible for skin, eye, and hair coloration.

Melanoma typically enlarges more rapidly than the other types and tends to spread (metastasize) when microscopic cells break away from the original cancer site and travel to other organs via the blood and lymph system. Metastatic melanoma often spreads to the lymph nodes, brain, bone, liver, and/or lungs.

It is much easier to treat and even possible to “cure” melanoma when it’s still localized to the top layer of your skin. Success rates for early diagnosis and treatment are as high as 99% according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

Signs and symptoms of melanoma

Melanoma can occur anywhere on your body and may develop in an existing mole. Even more frequently, however, melanoma begins in otherwise normal-appearing skin that may or may not have had significant sun exposure.

While less common, melanoma can also develop in a nail bed and may appear as a dark brown to blackish streak or bruised area under the affected toenail or fingernail.

Otherwise, early symptoms of melanoma can vary greatly and may be tricky to identify because they’re often rather subtle. It’s important, however, to be especially aware of:

Skin lesions associated with melanoma may be flat or raised slightly above the skin’s surface. One particularly aggressive type, nodular melanoma, starts as an obvious skin bump that may be black to blue-black but is also commonly red or pink.

When should I see a doctor?

We always encourage you to check in for an evaluation any time you have worries about a new or changing skin lesion. Certainly, not all skin changes are caused by cancer, but anything that concerns you is reason enough to schedule a visit with us.

Otherwise, there are some factors that may increase your risk of melanoma or other skin cancers, including:

Note that many of our patients consider comprehensive skin exams a valuable part of their routine health screenings. If you have a history of skin cancer or precancerous lesions, routine exams for surveillance are as necessary as routine visits for managing heart disease, diabetes, and other serious conditions.

For top-level skin care delivered in a warm and welcoming environment, schedule an evaluation with Dr. Stein at Stein Dermatology and Skin Surgery today.

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