Other symptoms of melanoma include moles that are itchy, painful, inflamed, or bleeding. A dark area under a nail, not caused by injury, can also be a sign of melanoma, as can an unusual mark on your skin that has not gone away after a few weeks.
Some melanomas may lack colour – called “amelanotic” melanomas, these cases are missing the melanin that give most moles and melanomas their colour.
If you have a mole that matches any of these descriptions, you should speak to your GP. In many cases, it may not be melanoma or another type of skin cancer, but it is always better to check with a health professional – catching melanoma early (before it has spread) is extremely important for successful treatment.
How is melanoma diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects you may have melanoma, they normally refer you to a dermatologist. This skin specialist will take a closer look at the mole under a dermascope (a kind of handheld microscope) to look for signs of cancer.
If they suspect the mole is cancerous, they might remove the mole, along with a margin of healthy skin around the mole, and send it away to be tested in the lab to see if it is cancerous.
Why is it important to catch melanoma early?
If caught early, melanoma can often be treated successfully by removing the mole and a margin of healthy skin around it. However, if left untreated, it can grow down into the skin and spread around the body.
Melanoma can be much harder to treat once it has spread, and some types of melanoma tend to reach this stage faster than others. That means it is important to get any new or changing moles checked by a health professional to catch it early.