Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Melanoma symptoms

Because many melanomas develop on the skin where they can be seen, there is a good chance of catching them early. Regular examination of the skin for any new or unusual growths, or changes in existing moles, is critical. If you find anything suspicious, you should discuss it with your primary care physician, a dermatologist (skin doctor) or a health care professional qualified to diagnose melanoma.

Most moles are harmless. A normal mole is generally colored evenly (brown, black or tan), and are less than 6 mm in diameter (about the size of a pencil eraser). They can be flat or raised, and generally do not change over time.

cancer symptoms

Melanoma symptoms

Signs of melanoma include new spots on the skin, or a change in size, shape or color of an existing mole. The ABCDE method may help you determine if an abnormal skin growth may be melanoma:

  • Asymmetry: The mole has an irregular shape.
  • Border: The edge is not smooth, but irregular or notched.
  • Color: The mole has uneven shading or dark spots.
  • Diameter: The spot is larger than the size of a pencil eraser.
  • Evolving or Elevation: The spot is changing in size, shape or texture.

The only way to be sure if a mole is melanoma is to have it examined by a doctor.

Other melanoma symptoms may include:

  • Sores that do not heal
  • Pigment, redness or swelling that spreads outside the border of a spot to the surrounding skin
  • Itchiness, tenderness or pain
  • Changes in texture, or scales, oozing or bleeding from an existing mole
  • Blurry vision or partial loss of sight, or dark spots in the iris

Since cancer symptoms may vary—and not all melanomas develop from moles—it is important to discuss any new or unusual skin growths with your doctor.

While many melanomas develop in areas exposed to the sun, they may also develop in areas that are usually hidden from the sun. In addition to examining the legs, trunk, arms, face and neck, it is important to look at the areas between the toes, underneath fingernails and toenails, on the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet, the genitals and even the eyes.

Understanding cancer symptoms

These symptoms may be attributed to a number of conditions other than cancer. If you notice any cancer signs or symptoms, it's important to visit your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

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