Melanomas can begin anywhere on the skin but usually develop on parts exposed to the sun, such as your hands, neck, back, legs or face. In people with darker skin tones, melanoma may begin in areas of the body that are not exposed to the sun (like soles of the feet).
Melanoma rarely shows any signs or symptoms in its early stages. However, abnormal skin changes are the earliest and most vital indicators of this cancer. Common symptoms that may prompt you to visit a doctor are:
If you spot any abnormal changes in your skin, you must visit your doctor or dermatologist at the earliest to get it checked out. If your doctor suspects melanoma from your signs and symptoms, they will perform a clinical evaluation of the area.
Skin biopsy is the standard diagnostic tool for melanoma, during which a small tissue sample is collected from the suspected area on the skin and sent to the laboratory. The skin sample is then analysed to determine the stage of your melanoma. Imaging tests like CT scan, MRI or PET scan may be needed to assess the spread of melanoma to other organs.
Based on your signs, symptoms and diagnostic test results, your doctor and healthcare team will determine how to treat melanoma.
Melanoma treatment options depend upon the type of melanoma and its extent of spread. Early-stage melanomas that are small and limited to the skin are treated by surgery. In melanomas that have spread beyond the skin, surgery may involve removing the tumour along with affected lymph nodes. In stage 3 and stage 4 melanoma (advanced stages), treatment options include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy. Each treatment option has its benefits and side effects. So, if you are concerned about the side effects of radiation therapy or chemotherapy and melanoma, speak to your doctor about it.