Have you noticed unusual sores, lumps, moles, or blemishes on your skin? While their appearance may not signify skin cancer, it is necessary to involve your doctor to help you rule out melanoma. However, you should never panic when you realize these changes since there are other numerous reasons that can explain their occurrences. In this article, we will delve into details of melanoma to help you identify the condition fast before it progresses to fatal stages. We’ll explain the symptoms of melanoma at early stages as well as how it would appear on different sections of your skin. Read on to learn more!

Symptoms of Melanoma

Identifying the symptoms of melanoma is the first step to its treatment. It is recommended that you recognize cancer at its early stages before it spreads to other organs which would complicate the melanoma treatment process.

Early-stage cancer is easier to treat than late-stage cancer!

To identify the early symptoms of the condition, it is necessary that you regularly self-examine your skin. If you notice weird changes, you should visit your doctor to rule out cancer. Never procrastinate especially when you realize changes in the appearance, texture, color, symmetry, and shape of existing moles.

Also, if lesions start to develop on your skin and they are spreading fast, then it could be a sign of superficial melanoma. In such cases, the lesions spread horizontally covering a relatively large section of your skin! Below are symptoms based on the part of the skin involved:

Subungual Melanoma

This melanoma occurs on the nails matrix.

Subungual melanomaThe symptoms of this rare cancer include:

  • A vertical band on the nail that’s ideally dark brown or black.
  • Darkening of the skin next to the nail.
  • Thinning and cracking of the nail plate.
  • Bleeding nail that may develop a nodule.
  • Streaks on the nails which may progressively increase in size.
  • A chronic bruise on the nail that does not move up even as the fingernail grows.
  • Fingernails or toenails that strangely separate from the nail bed.

Not all cases of melanoma cause pigmentation. However, this condition affects one nail at a time making it easy to identify.

What does Nodular Melanoma Look Like?

Nodular MelanomaNodular melanoma develops on the skin cells. It may present as a pimple, mole, or a bug bite.

Usually, it is black in color and forms bump. This type of melanoma is common in the regions that are largely exposed to the sun including the legs, chest, arms, and the head.

Unlike other moles, the nodular melanoma moles are firm and grow quickly. The freckles may develop and stop growing after several weeks. However, if it continues growing after three weeks, it could be a sign of nodular melanoma!

Eye Melanoma

Your eyes have melanin-producing cells which makes them susceptible to melanoma.

Eye melanomaThe symptoms of this type of melanoma include:

  • Continually growing dark spot on the iris.
  • Sensations of specks on the eye.
  • Change in the pupil’s shape.
  • Poor vision.
  • Loss of peripheral vision.

If you experience these symptoms, you should visit your optician immediately.

Foot Melanoma

If you have had an existing mole on the foot, then you should keep examining it closely. Any changes in the size, shape, texture, and color of the mole are the first sign that you could be suffering from foot melanoma.

Foot melanomaAlso, you should be wary of weird foot sores, blemishes, lumps, and markings on the skin. If you notice something unusual about them, you have them examined to rule out melanoma.

Also, lookout for the following symptoms:

  • Chronic sores.
  • Swelling and redness on lesions or outside the lesion’s borders.
  • Itchiness.
  • Pigment spreading from the lesion to the skin nearer the area.

An Early Stage

It is highly crucial that you identify melanoma at an early stage to allow the physicians to treat it before it spreads to other organs. There are two methods that you can use to identify early symptoms of melanoma: ABCDE technique and Ugly Duckling Sign.

ABCDE Technique

While moles are a normal occurrence, you need to regularly evaluate them since they present a risk of developing skin cancer. The physicians developed this technique to help you identify dangerous moles for immediate addressing by a professional.

ABCDE rule for the early detection of melanoma

ABCDE Changes
  • Asymmetry. If you see a mole that one half does not match the other, then it could be an early sign of melanoma.
  • Borders. Irregular margins on the mole may be a sign of cancer at an early stage
  • Color. A mole that shows different shades of color should be examined immediately by a doctor. Such moles may change colors to pink, blue, or even red. Click here to find out more about moles that are red.
  • Diameter. If you realize that the mole is rapidly growing exceeding 6mm, then it could be a symptom of early skin cancer.
  • Evolving. A mole that is changing needs to be evaluated. Weird signs such as reddening, bleeding, and itchiness is a symptom of early melanoma. Click here to read more about bleeding moles.

Moles that develop at a later stage of life past 20 years should be examined to rule out melanoma!

The Ugly Duckling Sign

You’ll be thrilled to learn that moles on your skin look similar. This realization by physicians formed the basis of the ugly duckling theory of identifying early signs of melanoma.

On top of carrying out the ABCDE technique, it is crucial that you compare the moles with the surrounding lesions.

Surrounding lesions

The sole aim of this is to identify an outlier appearance in the background of the other lesions. If you observe anything different from the other lesions in the surrounding, then it may a symptom of melanoma.

The outlier appearance may encompass moles that are darker than others; larger than the surrounding lesions; or even smaller and red moles in the midst of many large dark moles.

If you have few or no moles at all, then any changing mole is an outlier and could signify melanoma.

Identifiable Symptoms of Superficially Spreading Melanoma

If you have realized abnormal skin color or growth that tend to spread horizontally on your skin, then you need to be examined to rule out spreading melanoma. The condition is the commonest form of skin cancer and it arises from the skin’s pigment cells (melanocytes). It occurs mostly in areas exposed to sunlight such as the trunk among the men and the legs among the women.

Almost all the signs associated with this condition can be easily identifiable.

They include:

  • Smooth skin surface which progressively becomes thick and irregular. It may appear dry.
  • The skin growths show a radially outward pattern.
  • Moles that are more than 6mm, have irregular shapes and changes color to pink, red, or blue.
  • Ulceration and breeding on the skin lesion. If you realize white or grey areas, then there is a regression.
  • Itchiness.

The most distinct sign of superficially spreading melanoma is the pattern of development. This form of skin cancer spread on the upper layer of your skin before going deep into the skin. When you notice the spreading pattern of the lesions, you should immediately contact a doctor for evaluation.

5 Stages of Melanoma

The skin melanoma develops in different stages with the early stages being easier to treat than the advanced stages of the condition. Various factors are used in the classification process including the location, the depth of the melanoma, and appearance of microscopic ulceration.

5 Stages of Melanoma

5 Stages of Melanoma

Based on these factors, the American Joint Commission on Cancer (AJCC) classified the skin melanoma into five stages as below:

  • Stage 0 Melanoma (also called in situ stage)
    This is the safest stage of skin cancer. You are advised to check your skin regularly to ensure that, if it happens, you can identify the melanoma while still at this early stage.
    At stage 0, the skin cancer is still localized in the upper layers of the skin. Since the skin cancer has not spread into the deep layer of your skin, it becomes relatively easy to treat it.
    The word in situ is a Latin word that translates to “in place”. It is used in this context to show that there is no evidence that cancer has spread to other organs such as the lymph nodes (metastasis has not taken place).
  • Stage 1 Melanoma

    You’ll identify this type of skin cancer primarily using the size of the tumor. In most cases, the tumor will be localized and will have a thickness of up to 2mm. There are minimal chances that this stage will present with ulceration.

    However, there is no evidence that cancer has spread to lymph nodes or other distant organs. As such, this is still an early stage and any cancer that is identified at this level can easily be contained before it metastasizes.

    This stage has two sub-classes including:

    1. Stage 1A. Characterized by tumors of less than 0.8mm and lacks ulceration. Also, there is no evidence of metastasis.
    2. Stage 1B. Tumor size ranges from 0.8mm to 2.0mm with no ulceration or metastasis.

    If you are at this stage, then you shouldn’t worry since the melanoma is still a low risk. Make sure that you follow all the doctor’s instructions to prevent metastasis.

    Note Better
    The survival chances are determined by myriad reasons. You need to frequently engage your doctor for constant evaluation. The doctor may recommend avoiding certain products or sticking to a certain environment to enhance your immunity. It’s your obligation to follow all these recommendations to prevent progressing of the melanoma.

    If you’re diagnosed at this stage, you should do everything possible to prevent cancer from moving on to stage II!

  • Stage II Melanoma

    This stage of cancer is characterized by a localized tumor and ulceration.

    It is classified into three sub-classes including:

    1. Stage IIA. Tumor 1.01mm to 2.0mm thick with ulceration but no evidence of metastasis.
    2. Stage IIB. Tumor 2.01mm to 4.00mm with ulceration but no metastasis.
    3. Stage IIC. Tumor is bigger than 4.0mm in thickness with ulceration but no evidence of metastasis.

    This stage is considered intermediate to high risk. If left untreated, it can easily spread to the lymph nodes and other distant organs.

  • Stage III Melanoma

    At this stage, the skin cancer has spread to several lymph nodes thus making it advanced.

    It has four sub-classes:

    1. Stage IIIA. The tumor’s thickness is less than 2.0mm and cancer has spread to a maximum of 3 lymph nodes. No lymph node can be felt.
    2. Stage IIIB. The primary tumor is 2.0mm to 4.0mm and has spread to a maximum of 3 lymph nodes.
    3. Stage IIIC. Tumor greater than 4mm. Presence of satellite melanoma and it is present in any lymph node.
    4. Stage IIID. Melanoma present in more than 4 lymph nodes. It is more than 4.0mm and there are satellite tumors.
  • Stage IV Melanoma

    At this stage, cancer has spread to distant organs in the body. The metastasis to vital organs, soft tissues, and distant lymph nodes makes it a high-risk condition.

    There are four sub-classes:

    1. M1a. Has spread to subcutaneous layer and distant lymph nodes.
    2. M1b. Has spread to the lungs.
    3. M1c. Has metastasized to other vital organs.
    4. M1d. Has spread to Central Nervous System.

Bottom Line

Identification of melanoma at an early stage is critical in ensuring effective treatment. As such, you should regularly examine your skin for any weird changes.

Apply the ABCDE technique and the ugly duckling sign to identify telling signs. If you recognize unusual occurrence on the skin, then visit your dermatologist immediately!

You can find further details of Types of moles here.