So, after taking your evening shower after work, you notice that there is small black mole on the skin of your right shoulder. After closer inspection, you see that it is raised and dark.
Maybe, it is a little bit itchy, and it has started to bleed. Granted, you know that you have been going swimming without any sunscreen this summer, but could it really be cancer?
Well, there are some specific signs to look for to tell if it is time to head to the doctor.
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Symptoms of Skin Cancer
Most freckles and moles are non-cancerous, and there is no reason to be concerned about them. But, on occasion, a person might find that they have some unusual symptoms. The first thing to be concerned about is the shape of the mole.
Check to see if it is a perfectly round mole, or if the edges seems a little irregular. This means that instead of smooth sides, they would look a little jagged and misshapen.
Next, inspect the color. Did it just recently turn black, or is it dark brown? This is important to know because not all black moles are cancerous. Some are just healthy, round beauty marks that occur naturally.
Small cancerous moles are sometimes difficult to find because they can be located all over the body, not just on the face. They can also be found on the neck, legs, and even the back. If you have a black mole in an area that you cannot see clearly, have a trusted friend or a relative help you to inspect it. Ask them to snap a picture of it for you as well.
Also, take note of any of the following more serious symptoms:
- Is there any redness or swelling that is surrounding the black mole?
- Is there any puss oozing from it?
- Is it bleeding or really itchy?
Making the Decision to See a Doctor for Your Black Mole
Raised, black or dark brown moles that have continuously grown in size should be a cause of concern, especially if the edges are asymmetrical.
If the mole started out as being light brown then turned to black over time then it should be checked by a dermatologist. Also, notice if the black mole has just recently appeared. Often, cancerous moles occur quite suddenly, and they are mostly noticed in people after the age of 20-years-old. If it is bleeding, red, swollen, or itches then schedule an appointment as fast as possible.
Black moles that are larger are also of concern because any that are over six millimeters in width are generally always cancerous.
Skin cancer is dangerous because it can metastasize very quickly. However, if it caught right away, it can generally be removed, so the cancer does not spread any further. It is always better to be on the safe side and have a doctor check the mole.
Treatment Options for a Cancerous Black Mole on the Face
If a person finds out that their black mole could be the beginning of melanoma then it is time to consider treatment options. The treatment varies based on the severity and size of the melanoma though.
Black moles on the face are often removed with a laser instead of a scalpel, so the skin isn’t damaged as badly. They can also be shaved down some to reduce their appearance. This isn’t always possible if a biopsy of the mole and tissue is needed though. The doctor might need to remove a little extra skin around the mole to be sure that all of the cancer is removed.
Other tests might be done after this to determine if the skin cancer has spread any further. Lymph nodes might be checked for swelling, and blood tests might be ran as well. Based on these test results, the doctor will decide if any further treatment, such as chemotherapy, is needed.
Most cases of skin cancer do not need further treatment though.
Other types of treatments for skin cancer that are available include:
- Photodynamic Therapy,
- Curettage and Electrodessication.
Cancerous Black Mole Removal
Always go to a licensed doctor for treatment.
Usually, most sources of skin cancer are removed surgically under local anesthesia. First, the person receives some form of anesthesia. Then, the skin is thoroughly cleansed with an antiseptic. And lastly, the surgeon uses a scalpel to cut away the mole and some of the surrounding tissue to be sure that any cancerous cells are removed.
The entire procedure usually takes close to an hour. Because of the anesthesia involved, it is recommended that the person is monitored afterwards for a little while to be sure they are not having any dangerous side effects.
They also have some guidelines to follow:
- No driving or operating heavy equipment of any kind.
- Keep the wound clean.
- Return to the doctor if there is continued pain or swelling of the surgery site.
Risks of Mole Removal and Other Treatments
Black mole removal has some notable risks that should be considered before having the procedure done. These risks vary depending with each individual because every case of mole removal is slightly different, so it is important that anyone who intends to have a black mole removed by a dermatologist let them know immediately before hand of any serious illnesses that they may have.
For example, if the patient has a disease that effects the immune system then they will have a harder time fighting off an infection if it occurs. This can reduce their ability to heal, which could be dangerous because sometimes stitches are put in after a mole is removed, and other times the wound is intentionally left open to heal from the inside out. Open wounds are the most likely to get infected if the person has a weakened immune system.
Another risk that is a major concern is the anesthesia that is used. Anyone with an illness, such as heart disease, can have a dangerous reaction to both the general and local types of anesthesia that black mole removal requires.
They can experience:
- Dangerous lowering of blood pressure.
- Mental fog.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Suppression of the ability to cough (This can be dangerous for someone with an upper respiratory disease because they could choke on their phlegm, or not be able to breathe properly.)
Preventing Cancerous Black Moles From Occurring
Though not all cases of skin cancer can be prevented, there are a few things that can be done to help.
- Avoid being out in the sun in the middle of the day whenever possible. If you must go out then wear light colored clothing that covers your skin. Don’t forget a hat to protect your face and scalp.
- If you want to wear clothing that exposes the skin then be sure to use a sunscreen with a high SPF rating to it.
Types of sunscreens that are waterproof are often the best because they won’t wash off if you sweat. Sometimes people with naturally darker skin falsely believe that they won’t get skin cancer because of the extra melanin that they have, so they don’t use sunscreen at all. But, while those with darker skin do have a lessened chance of getting skin cancer than a person with very pale fair skin, they are not completely without risk.
Everyone, no matter what race they are, should use protection from the sun’s damaging rays, including sunscreen.
In fact, it can be more dangerous for a person with darker skin to have melanoma because they often ignore the tell tale signs that their black moles have turned cancerous.
In conclusion, though most black moles are noncancerous, it is still important to check any that look suspicious for potential signs that you need to see a doctor. And, be sure that you go to a dermatologist for them. They are one of the most qualified types of doctors available to be able to diagnose skin cancer.
Never attempt to remove any black moles yourself. It could lead to serious injuries. And lastly, even if your black moles turn out to be noncancerous, you should still practice preventative measures to ensure that your risks of skin cancer are reduced.
You can find further details of Types of moles here.