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Melanoma - Catching it early

Oct 15, 2007 - 3 comments

Skin Cancer






skin graft




I want to use this space to spread the word about Skin Cancer (Melanoma). I was diagnosed with Skin Cancer on my right arm when I was 32. I had skin graft surgery to remove this and have not had another instance since.

I was lucky. I want to write this so maybe one other person out there doesn't need to just be lucky to recover 100%.

I'd had a small mole on my right arm as far back as I could remember. So, of course never thought anything of it. Turns out, since I'd always had it, I didn't notice the very slow changes occurring to it. I didn't notice it getting darker, or changing shape slightly. It just always seemed like it'd been like that. It happens when things move so slow, your mind adjusts to the new reality. So, two years ago, simply sitting in my dentist's chair getting a cleaning, wearing a short sleeve shirt, my dentist mentioned that it looked dark and I should get it looked at. At first I dismissed it, figuring I'd always had it, but I happened to have my annual physical that month and while I was there I asked about it. He assured me it was probably nothing, but let's take a quick test anyway. So, he took a sample (a more or less painless process) and sent it off to the lab. Well, a week later, I had tested positive, and was scrambling to find out more about Melanoma (thanks MedHelp) and to schedule surgery with a Dermatologist to have it removed.

The key was that I caught it early. I'm not a doctor, so bear with me if some of this isn't perfect medically, but Melanoma essentially moves downward into your skin. As long as you catch it while it's in the skin you have a terrific chance of isolating it just to that location and being perfectly fine. Those chances drop significantly if it has time to get down into the blood stream. At that point it can spread easier and needless to say, this isn't good.

The advice I give all my friends, and wanted to put here is simple. If you have a mole or something irregular, in particular if it's dark in color, odd in shape or raised from the skin, have your primary care doctor check it out. It's a simple process. Doesn't involve the hospital or a specialist. Let your doctor determine if you need a test, but just ask.

Catching it early makes a world of difference.

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242516 tn?1368223905
by Enoch Choi, MDBlank, Oct 25, 2007
I'm so glad you caught it early, you're right, it makes the difference between life and death...

Melanomas less than 1mm thickness have a low likelihood of tumor spread to the regional lymph nodes, roughly less than 10 percent.  A CT scan or PET scan can examine these and other lymph nodes to see if a biopsy is necessary.

American Joint Committee on Cancer has defined a staging system for melanoma based on these characteristics:
ulceration (loss of skin) over the surface
spread to the draining lymphatics and/or "regional" lymph nodes
spread beyond the lymph nodes (distant metastases)

The less, the better, in this staging system.

Dr. Enoch Choi, MD
Palo Alto, CA

Avatar universal
by JessT, Nov 02, 2007
Hi, and thanks for your posting.  I'm wondering if you had experienced any itching or burning sensations prior to diagnosis.  I was recently told that I might have dyplastic nevis and further testing is due.  I found my symptoms listed as early warning signs of melanoma, I have almost a month before the scheduled biopsy and am worried that it may it may be serious.  My mole has a fading border with a slight hint of pink and fleshy color just on the side, should I be concerned?      

195500 tn?1257427532
by ea_poe, Nov 06, 2007

Actually, no, I didn't really feel anything. I wouldn't have even noticed it if my dentist hadn't mentioned it. Of course, I caught it very early, so not sure if I would have started getting those sensations a bit down the road.

I'm not an expert on this, but as I said, it's really a pretty simple thing to get looked at. I'd ask your doctor just to be safe. Good luck.

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