Melanoma is the most severe type of skin cancer, hence why it’s often called malignant melanoma.
Thanks to melanoma clinical trials, more effective treatments for melanoma are being developed. However, since melanoma is able to quickly spread to other areas of the body, including internal organs, it’s very important to know the symptoms of this type of cancer so that you can spot the signs early.
Here are the symptoms of melanoma skin cancer you need to know:
Early Symptoms of Melanoma
A New/Changing Mole
Very often, the earliest (and sometimes the only) sign of melanoma is either a new mole appearing or a change in an existing mole on the body.
The shape and size of the mole can give you an indication of the potential risk of melanoma. Usually, non-cancerous moles are smooth around the edges and don’t grow larger than 6 mm across.
However, size is not always a sure indicator of whether a mole is cancerous or not. It’s possible for a smaller mole to be cancerous, while some moles over 6 mm in diameter can be healthy.
If you have noticed a new mole or seen changes in a mole you’ve had for a while, it’s always best to consult a doctor, particularly if you have noticed continuous changes in a mole over a period of weeks or months. Please see a doctor as soon as possible if you see any changes in a mole:
- Border (eg. from smooth to ragged)
- Symmetry (eg. looking like 2 halves instead of a single mole)
Bleeding or crustiness in either a new or existing mole can also be a cause for concern, as can itching.
Rarely, melanoma can develop in the eye(s). If this is the case, the symptoms you observe will be different from the standard experience of melanoma.
Most of the time, melanoma of the eye is diagnosed during a routine eye examination because it doesn’t produce clear symptoms. However, if you have noticed a significant change in your vision or a dark spot obscuring your vision, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with an eye specialist.
Of course, there are many conditions that can cause changes to your vision, so you shouldn’t panic. For example, many people simply become more short or long-sighted over the course of their lives and this can be corrected with new glasses or contact lens prescription. Nonetheless, since vision changes and particularly dark spots can be a sign of melanoma, it’s important to investigate the cause.
Pain, Bleeding, or Discharge
Mucosal melanoma is a melanoma skin cancer that develops in mucous membranes. These membranes are found inside the nose, mouth, vagina, anus, urinary tract, and esophagus.
Obviously, it’s difficult at best or even impossible to notice things like discoloration or skin changes in these areas, so the first noticeable symptoms for this type of melanoma are different.
Basically, any unexplained pain, discharge, or bleeding from any mucous membrane in your body should prompt a visit to your doctor. Obviously, some discharge from the vagina is normal, but changes in quantity, odor, or consistency should be investigated. Similarly, if you start experiencing nosebleeds when you haven’t before, this can be a sign of mucosal melanoma. Any new or unexplained pain in these areas should also be reported to your doctor.
Again, there are plenty of other conditions which may cause these symptoms, so you shouldn’t automatically assume that you have cancer. However, given the severity of melanoma skin cancer, it’s always worth mentioning symptoms like these to a medical professional.
Symptoms of Advanced Melanoma
The above symptoms may present themselves in the early stages of melanoma skin cancer, but the longer melanoma is allowed to progress without treatment, the more symptoms are likely to arrive.
More advanced melanoma may present with symptoms such as:
- Chest Pain/Shortness of Breath
- Bone Pain
- Abdominal Pain/Digestive Issues
- Persistent Headaches
- Lumps/Swollen Lymph Nodes
Many of these symptoms can be caused by other conditions and some (fatigue or abdominal pain, for example) can simply be the result of dietary choices and other everyday factors. However, if any of these symptoms persist for a prolonged period of time, you should discuss possible causes with your doctor.
Melanoma skin cancer may present in different ways depending on how advanced the cancer is and which part of the body it is affecting.
Most often, the first sign of melanoma is a new or changing mole. However, vision changes may occur if the melanoma is in the eye. Mucosal melanoma can present with pain, bleeding, or discharge and more advanced melanoma that has begun to affect other parts of the body may cause symptoms like aching bones, fatigue, lumps, headaches, or shortness of breath.
If you are experiencing any symptoms mentioned in this article, please consult a medical professional.