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Melanoma Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Risk Factors

  • Symptoms: The most important early symptom of melanoma is any change in size, shape, or color of a mole or other skin growth, such as a birthmark. Use the American Cancer Society’s ABCDE rule – check moles and other skin growths for asymmetry, border irregularity, color, diameter, and evolution. Look for thickening or raising of a previously flat mole; scaling, oozing, or bleeding of a mole; redness or swelling around a mole or skin growth; tingling, burning, or itching of a mole or skin growth; and brittleness of skin (small pieces of the mole or skin growth break off easily).
  • Diagnosis: Your doctor will perform a physical exam of your skin. If you doctor sees a suspicious mole or skin growth, he/she will perform a skin biopsy to test for melanoma. Your doctor may also evaluate your lymph nodes to see how large they are, which lead to a lymph node biopsy. To check if melanoma has spread, your doctor may also order a CT scan or MRI to view other parts of your body.
  • Treatment: Your doctor will most likely surgically remove the affected skin. If your melanoma is more advanced, your doctor may remove affected lymph nodes as well as prescribe biologic therapy, radiation, or chemotherapy.
  • Risk Factors: The most common risk factor for melanoma is exposure to ultraviolet radiation, or exposure to the sun. Other risk factors include having fair skin that sunburns or freckles easily, having numerous moles or atypical moles, having blue or green eyes, having red or blond hair, and having a family history of melanoma.
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