Types of Cancer
The skin, the larges organ in the human body, is made of three layers: the epidermis – the outer most layer of the skin, the dermis – the inner layer of the skin, and the hypodermis – the deep layer of fat beneath the skin. The skin is essential to the human body. It helps to regulate a person’s body temperature and prevents and fights infections and injuries. Skin produces vitamin D, and store fat and water for the body.
Located just above the dermis in the deepest layer of the epidermis are melanocytes (cells). Melanocytes are used to produce skin pigmentation. When melanocytes that are otherwise healthy begin to grow and change uncontrollably, a tumour may for that is either cancerous or malignant. Melanoma is one of the most serious types of skin cancer. As the skin is everywhere, melanoma can happen anywhere at all on the human body. Melanoma may also develop from a mole that has always been on a person’s body. If a mole becomes cancerous, it will begin to physically change its shape, colour or size. Melanoma that does not develop in a pre-existing mole is known as amelanotic melanoma and will often be slightly red or have no colour at all. If melanoma is found early, it can generally be cured with surgery. If it is not found early enough, melanoma can grow further into the skin. This is called invasive melanoma.
Signs and Symptoms of Melanoma
When looking out for melanoma, doctors refer to the “ABCDE rule”.
- Asymmetry: When one section of a mole does not match the other section.
- Boarder: When the edges of a mole are uneven, blurred or ragged.
- Colour: When the colour of the mole contains different shades of brown, tan and black. Occasionally, there may also be blue, red, grey or white sections present also.
- Diameter: When the diameter of a mole is larger than 6mm or has grown from its usual size.
- Evolving: When a mole has experienced the above changes, or a mole begins growing in an area previously not containing any marks. If a mole develops a melanoma, it’s texture may also change, now feeling lumpy or harder than before. It does not usually cause pain.
When to Consult a Doctor
If you experience any type of skin abnormality, you should consult your doctor. This includes changes to an existing mole, or new growths that are rapidly growing. If you have a lump or mole that is bleeding, it is also important to consult a doctor as this can indicate advanced melanoma.
When you consult your doctor, they will give you an examination and ask you a series of questions to help give you a diagnosis. They may order more testing, based on their findings.