Often, a change in the shape, size, color or feel of an existing mole is the first sign of melanoma. It is important to check your skin to see if you notice any new moles, or any changes in moles. If you have any concerns, ask your doctor to check your moles.
Watch out for moles that have a black or blue-black area. Melanoma also may appear as a new mole. It may be black or abnormal. Early stage melanomas can be found when a mole changes slightly. The formation of a new black area, newly formed fine scales, and itching in a mole are common symptoms of early melanoma. In advanced melanoma, the texture might change or the mole may itch, ooze or bleed. Melanomas do not usually cause pain. Often, melanoma can be cured if it is diagnosed and treated early.
If melanoma is not removed in the early stages, cancer cells may grow downward into the skin and can spread to other parts of the body, becoming difficult to control.
A biopsy is the only way to make a definite diagnosis of melanoma. This can be done two ways:
- The doctor tries to remove all of the suspicious-looking growth. A pathologist examines the tissue under a microscope to check for cancer cells.
- If the growth is too large to remove entirely, the doctor takes a sample of the tissue. A pathologist examines the tissue under a microscope to check for cancer cells.
The biopsy will help inform the doctor about specific factors related to your melanoma, including: thickness, subtype, how fast the cancer cells are dividing, and ulceration
Updated March 23, 2015