One of the major tenets essential to melanoma education is for everyone to perform regular skin self-examinations. All it entails is a few minutes once a month during which you simply check over your skin from head to toe. (And palms to soles).
No surface area of the body, nor inside the mouth, is to be excluded. A close friend, loved one or doctor can check the places you can’t; such as the back, scalp, neck, and inside and around both ears. (For information regarding the two types of melanoma, read our blog post Radial and Nodular Melanoma.)
If your completed skin self-exam reveals nothing unusual, that’s excellent. However, if a suspicious new mole, or changes to a pre-existing one is discovered, the time to act is right away.
My Self-exam has Revealed a Suspicious Mole. What do I do?
It’s likely that your first instinct would, understandably, be to contact your general practitioner. However, call a dermatologist instead. Most family doctors receive minimal, if any, dermatological training while attending medical school. This leads to melanomas being missed or misdiagnosed in their earliest stages, which is the most crucial time to confirm them.
Some insurance companies require a referral from your primary care physician. If yours is among them, request that he or she quickly provide you with one.
What if There is a Long Wait for a Dermatologist Appointment?
If you encounter the hurdle of a weeks, or even months-long wait before a dermatologist can see you, you still have multiple choices. Contact the office and explain that the skin growth you’ve discovered resembles a melanoma, and that you don’t want to wait. You can also ask them to call you first if a previously scheduled patient cancels an appointment.
If you’re unsatisfied with what the dermatologist’s offices tells you, make an appointment with a plastic or general surgeon. Their qualifications to excise new melanomas are equal to those of dermatologists. You can often get in to see them sooner, too.
The one option to absolutely avoid is to make a distant appointment, and then just wait around for it. In the financial world, the old saying is time is money. In the world of melanoma, it’s time is mortality.
The procedure to remove an early melanoma isn’t difficult or time consuming. In fact, if it is a melanoma that has been caught soon enough, its quick removal is often the cure itself. And once the growth has been excised, be sure to instruct the surgeon or dermatologist to have a dermapathologist (rather than a general pathologist) perform the biopsy. He or she will have greater training and experience with distinguishing the subtle nuances that often occur between a benign mole and actual skin cancer.
In the 18 years since the Melanoma Education Foundation was created, no one within the organization has ever encountered a single person who has ever regretted the removal of a suspicious skin growth.
So please, don’t be shy and do be persistent. Remember, it may very well be nothing. But if it is melanoma any delay in diagnosis will increasingly begin to put your life at risk.
What to do if a Suspicious Growth is Found During a Skin Self-exam
*Additional source: Skincheck.org (Page 5)
Skin cancer is the world’s most common cancer, and its worst form is melanoma. Today, we’d like to talk a little bit about the two main types of melanoma: radial and nodular. You wouldn’t want to develop either, as both can end up being just as fatal. However, of the two, nodular is worse.
More often than not, nodular melanoma will present itself on an area of skin that was previously free of blemishes. Less common, but still feasible, is for it to piggyback onto a mole that was already there.
So, what do they look like? To borrow from one of our own two highly-informative websites, they’re often dome-shaped. Also, “The colors of nodular melanomas are usually black, blue-black, dark brown, or brown-red. However, occasionally they are red, pink, grey, flesh-tone, or light to medium brown.”
A primary difference between nodular melanoma and other skin cancers is that it starts under the skin, and as such is harder to detect at its outset. As you’ll read many times to come on this blog, as well as any other material on skin cancer that’s worth its salt, nothing is more vital to potentially curing a melanoma patient than the speed of its discovery and treatment. The last thing anyone would want to do is disregard the initial warning signs of a melanoma that gives itself a head start.
To better assist people with keeping track of what to look for, an easy way has been developed to remember the properties of a nodular melanoma. Simply use the sequential letters EFG: E = Elevated, F = Firm, G = Growing.
Once we reach adulthood, our chance of incurring a nodular melanoma drops to around 20%. However, in our pre-teen and adolescent years, those numbers hover between 40% and 60%. If you’re a parent, we urge you to keep these figures in mind and talk with your child(ren) about the importance of practicing sun-safety.
Radial melanoma presents visibly on the surface of the skin from its very beginning. It spreads slower than the nodular version but, if ignored long enough, it too can- and often does -lead to the same ill-fated result.
Radials are asymmetrical in shape, grow larger than a pencil eraser, and can feature an array of different colors. They may also impact an existing mole. So, it’s important to alert your doctor or dermatologist if you notice a familiar mole begin to get larger, change color, texture, become itchy and/or start secreting fluids.
As radials progress, their hues turn darker. When a melanoma begins to transform on our skin from horizontal to vertical, it’s like turning over an hourglass. Sooner or later, time will run out. Time is of the essence, and monthly self-examinations are paramount.
The reason Melanoma Awareness organizations focus so much on encouraging self-examinations is because most melanomas aren’t discovered first by doctors. They’re discovered by their patients.
Of course, with that said, unless you have a Doctorate of Dermatology hanging on your wall, don’t try to self-diagnose. A skin blemish may look very similar to a picture of melanoma you find online, yet turn out to be nothing at all. Conversely, a new mark that appears normal may be anything but. Please let your doctor make the determination.
To read a melanoma overview that’s been conveniently condensed onto one page, please click here. The more you learn about melanoma, the safer you can make yourself- and anyone else you may be responsible for.
Please help us to help you. Thank you.Radial and Nodular Melanoma