When you or someone you love is diagnosed with melanoma, it’s hard to know what to expect. In the early days after diagnosis, your main focus might be learning about the cancer. It is highly treatable if detected at early stages when it’s most treatable. For this reason, knowing types, warning signs and symptoms of melanoma is important.
What is Melanoma?
Melanoma is a skin cancer that starts in melanocytes , which give skin its pigment, or color. Melanocytes can grow together to form benign (not cancerous) moles. A change in size, shape, or color of a mole can be a sign of melanoma. Other symptoms of a malignant (cancerous) mole include itching, bleeding, and scaliness. Sometimes these cells change, often because of damage caused by sun exposure. Over time, this damage may result in cancer. Melanoma usually appears as an Irregular brown, black or red spot. Or the existing mole that begins to change color, size or shape. If caught early, melanoma is often curable.
Main Types of Melanoma
There are four main types of melanoma.
Superficial spreading melanoma: It is the most common type of melanoma. it often appears on the trunk, arms or limbs. The cells tend to grow slowly at first, before spreading across the surface of the skin. It is often flat and thin (less than 1 mm thick) with an uneven border. It has different colors such as red, blue, brown, black, grey and white. Sometimes superficial spreading melanoma starts from a mole that is already on the skin.
Nodular melanoma: It is the second most common type, appearing on the trunk, head, or neck. It grows more quickly than other types. It grows down into the skin and sticks out from the skin. The growth may be shaped like a mushroom with a stem. It is usually black, but sometimes can be red, pink or the same colour as your skin.
Lentigo maligna melanoma: It is less common, and tends to affect older people, especially in parts of the body that have been exposed to the sun over several years. It usually grows outward across the surface of the skin for many years before it starts to grow down into the skin. It usually grows slowly and it less dangerous than other types.
Acral lentiginous melanoma: It is the rarest kind of melanoma. It usually develops on the soles of the feet, on the palms of the hands or under the nails. It is more likely in people with dark skin.
Signs and Symptoms of Melanoma
The most important warning sign of melanoma is a new spot on the skin or a spot that is changing in size, shape, or color. Another important sign is a spot that looks different from all of the other spots on your skin. The edges of melanoma are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred. The color is not the same all over and may include different shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue. The mole is changing in size, shape, or color. The mole or other skin spot can be itchy or painful. It bleeds, scabs or becomes crusty and inflamed. If your melanoma has spread to other areas, you may have: Hardened lumps under your skin, swollen or painful lymph nodes, trouble breathing, loss of appetite, headaches, weakness, weight loss or fatigue.