Melanoma is a serious form of cancer that is typically caused by the skin on any part of your body having too much exposure to the sun or getting burned at any point in your life. Additional risk factors include having a family history of this type of cancer or having a weakened immune system. This type of cancer affects all ages, but it's most prevalent in the elderly population. Here's an overview of the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment approach:


Moles that you've had for several years can change into a melanoma, but it's more common for melanoma to develop from a new mole. Common symptoms of a melanoma mole include ragged edges, asymmetry, change in colour, change in size and crusting growing over the mole. A common symptom of melanoma cancer spreading from a mole to the surrounding tissue is swelling of the lymph glands around the mole.

Diagnosis And Treatment

Melanoma skin cancer is diagnosed by examining the suspicious mole using a dermatoscope, which is a highly sensitive microscope that has a small camera on the end of it for capturing images of the mole being investigated. Using a dermatoscope allows for a more detailed assessment of the mole than is possible with the naked eye, and this can help your doctor establish clear margins of damage to the surrounding skin and determine the stage of the melanoma.

When a melanoma is confirmed, you will have the mole surgically removed. This is referred to as an excisional biopsy, as both the mole and some surrounding tissue are removed, and the tissue is analysed to determine if the cancerous cells have spread beyond the mole. If there has been no spreading beyond the mole, no further treatment is required. However, if cancerous cells are found in the surrounding tissue, you will require a further procedure called a wide local excision. This aims to remove an area of surrounding tissue in an attempt to prevent further spreading of the cancerous cells.

However, if cancerous cells are still detected after a wide local excision, your doctor will take biopsies of your surrounding lymph nodes and use diagnostic imaging, such as an MRI, to determine if the melanoma has spread to other parts of your body. If this is the case, the goal of treatment will be to manage symptoms and try to prevent further spreading of the cancer. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy are not effective against melanoma, but there are new drugs called biologics that can be effective. These drugs stimulate your immune system to destroy cancerous cells.

If you notice any changes to your moles, schedule an urgent appointment with your doctor for a skin cancer check, as early diagnosis can improve treatment outcome.