By Ryan Jones
Moles may look disgusting to some, or used as beauty marks by others, but the truth is they may be killing you slowly. The most common early warning device used to detect melanoma is these little brown bumps and marks covering the body.
The “ABC’s of Melanoma,” as explained by Dr. Laura Hynes, a dermatologist from Arrowhead Dermatology, are asymmetrical, borders, color and diameter. If a mole does not have symmetrical sides, or is abnormally shaped, it may not be melanoma, but it is a possible hazard. The borders of a mole should be clearly defined and not softly blend into the surrounding skin. A mole should have only one color, two or more my also be a hazard. If a mole is bigger around than a pencil eraser, it should be checked. On their own, each of these are signs may or may not lead to skin cancer, but if one mole has more than one of these symptoms, Dr. Hynes advises this mole be looked at by a professional and possibly removed. There are two major removal procedures for one of these ‘atypical nevuses.’
Every removal procedure is easy, painless and usually an in-office procedure. One type is the classic way of numbing the area with a local anesthetic and cutting the offending nevus out with a scalpel, then stitching the incision. The other way is by freezing the mole, removing it with the scalpel and the cauterizing the incision.
By the freezing method, there is a much smaller scar, either not visible or very hard to see. If the mole is removed then stitched, it will obviously create more of a scar. These two removal procedures are only beginning, though. Once the moles are removed, they are then taken to a lab to be analyzed for the presence of melanoma cells. There are three possible results this test would bring back.
If the test results come back benign, everything is good and there is no reason to worry. The test could also come back atypical, which means they are not sure if it melanoma or not, just some weird looking cells. Finally, the test could come back malignant, which means there is a definite presence of melanoma cells in the sample. If the lab tests come back atypical or malignant, there is a need to extract more cells. If the test is atypical, it is only necessary to take another small sample of the skin cells and test them further for melanoma cells. This test will come back with one of the above results and everything may have to start all over again. If the lab tests come back malignant, then the remainder of the infected cells must be removed, or other cancer treatments, radiation or chemotherapy, must be started.
The chances of surviving melanoma are better if the early warnings are seen and checked. This makes melanoma the most survivable cancer. For more information on melanoma, treatments, or prevention, call your family doctor’s office.