December 14, 2017 | Stephen Fine, Founder and President
Melanoma on the Scalp
Six percent of melanomas develop on the scalp and neck but are responsible for 10% of all deaths resulting from the disease.
The specific reasons for this remain unclear, but the scientific community does have a couple of hypotheses. In most patients, abnormal moles and skin growths are hard to see because they’re covered by hair. Also, there are more blood and lymph vessels located beneath the scalp than there are anywhere else on the body. Additionally, skin cancer on a person’s scalp has a short route to his or her brain.
What Does it Look Like?
Most appear as a brownish or black spot with darker irregular colors and borders. Although most are dark, some can appear as a firm pinkish red lump. Any previously existing mole or skin growth that changes in size, texture or appearance should be considered a huge red flag.
These 2 photographs depict melanoma of the scalp:
Are There Ways to Improve the Chances of Discovering it?
Yes, there are. When doing your monthly skin self-exam use a long-handled mirror in combination with a well-lighted wall mirror. Use a hairbrush or dryer to part the hair. Be thorough. Spend the same amount of time checking under your hair as you do on all the rest of your body, combined. If you are unable to check your scalp, ask a close friend or significant other to check for you.
Ask your barber or hair stylist to alert you if he or she should notice any out-of-the-ordinary marks while cutting your hair. They’re not doctors, of course. But if something odd is discovered, a person can then quickly make an appointment with a dermatologist to have it checked out properly.
It sounds awkward, and unfortunately that can make people reluctant to ask their hairdressers to do it. That should be of absolutely no concern. It is a totally reasonable request that has become far more commonplace to workers in the industry. Some will even tell their clients if they find anything whether they initially asked them to or not.
Be sure to ask your doctor, or a nurse, to check each time you make a routine appointment. (This is in addition to what is stated above, as most people don’t see their primary care physicians monthly). Ask, because doctors typically don’t go out of their ways to look for skin cancer unless they either notice something obvious, or it’s related to the appointment.
*Additional source article: EmaxHealth.com