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Malignant Melanoma


A doctor should be consulted if any of the following possible malignant melanoma symptoms occur. Symptoms include a mole that:
  • Changes in size, shape, or color
  • Has irregular edges or borders
  • Is more than one color
  • Is asymmetrical (if the mole is divided in half, the two halves are different in size or shape
  • Itches
  • Changes in pigmented (colored) skin
  • Develops satellite moles (new moles that grow near an existing mole)
  • Oozes, bleeds, or is ulcerated (a hole forms in the skin when the top layer of cells breaks down and the underlying tissue shows through).

Diagnosing Malignant Melanoma

A doctor or nurse specialist can tell whether an abnormal-looking mole should be closely watched or should be removed and checked for malignant melanoma cells. The purpose of a routine skin exam is to identify and follow abnormal moles. The removal of the entire mole or a sample of tissue for examination under a microscope is called a biopsy. If possible, it is best to remove moles by an excisional biopsy, rather than a shave biopsy.

Treatment Options

If cancer cells are seen with the biopsy and a malignant melanoma diagnosis is made, the patient and the doctor should work together to make appropriate treatment decisions.
In many cases, malignant melanoma can be cured by minimal surgery if the tumor is discovered when it is thin (before it has grown downward from the skin surface) and before the cancer cells have begun to spread to other places in the body. However, if malignant melanoma is not found early, the cancer cells can spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to form tumors in other parts of the body. Malignant melanoma is much harder to control when it has spread. The spread of cancer is called metastasis.
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