Cancer Screening on Difficult to Diagnose Melanomas
Did you know that there are different types of melanoma? And did you also know that some of these types can be tricky to diagnose? If not, don’t worry; you’re not alone. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize that there are different types of melanomas.
Today’s blog post will discuss why screenings miss melanomas, cancer screening on difficult-to-diagnose melanomas, and how to avoid missing them. Keep reading for more information!
What are melanomas?
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that begins in the cells that produce melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color. The tumor can occur anywhere on the skin, but it is most commonly found on the face, neck, and arms. Melanoma usually develops as a new mole or a change in an existing mole. The mole can raise and have an irregular shape and color. Melanoma can also develop in other body parts, such as the eyes and intestines. While melanoma is less common than different types of skin cancer, it is more aggressive.
As a result, it can spread to other body parts if not detected early. Treatment for melanoma typically involves surgery to remove the tumor and lymph nodes that may contain cancer cells. Melanoma can be deadly, but it is often curable if caught early.
Why are melanomas missed?
As skin cancer becomes more and more prevalent, we must find ways to effectively screen for it. Unfortunately, melanomas are often missed during skin cancer screenings. This is because they can be easily mistaken for benign moles or freckles. Additionally, they may not be evenly distributed on the skin’s surface, making them more challenging to spot.
There are several reasons why screenings are more likely to miss melanomas.
- First, they can be small and irregular in shape. This makes them hard to spot, even for trained professionals. Additionally, melanomas often have minimal color variation. This can make them blend in with the surrounding skin, making them even more challenging to see.
- Another reason melanomas are often missed is that they tend to occur in areas of the body that are not typically exposed to the sun. This includes the underside of the arms and legs and the genital region.
As a result, these areas are often not examined as thoroughly during skin cancer screenings. In addition, not getting a full body check from your physician can result in a limited view of where the threat is located; therefore, increasing the risk of overlooking the problem.
3 Actors of melanoma
Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is responsible for causing the majority of melanomas. UV radiation damages the DNA in skin cells, which can lead to the development of cancer. People with fair skin, red or blond hair, and blue eyes are at the highest risk of melanoma. People with a history of sunburns or tanning beds are also at an increased risk.
Three main actors contribute to the death of patients with melanoma: the melanoma itself, the patient, and the doctor.
- The first actor is melanoma. Melanomas can be very aggressive and can grow and spread quickly. Once melanoma has spread to other body parts, it becomes complicated and almost always fatal.
- The second factor is the patient. Many patients with melanoma receive diagnoses at a late stage when cancer has already spread. This is because melanoma can often be hard to detect in its early stages. People need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of melanoma so they can see a doctor as soon as possible if they notice anything unusual.
- The third factor is the doctor. In many cases, doctors fail to diagnose melanoma in its early stages. In addition, melanoma can look like other skin conditions, such as moles or freckles. Therefore, doctors need to be familiar with the signs and symptoms of melanoma to make a correct diagnosis.
Despite the advances in treatment, the death rate from melanoma has been rising in recent years. This is because more people receive a diagnosis of melanoma at a late stage. Therefore, people need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of melanoma so they can see a doctor as soon as possible if they notice anything unusual. Early diagnosis is the key to successful treatment.
How to avoid missing them?
One can take several steps to help ensure that melanomas are not missed during skin cancer screenings.
First, knowing the risk factors for developing this skin cancer is essential. This includes fair skin, a history of sun exposure, and a family history of melanoma.
Suppose you are at high risk for developing melanomas. In that case, it is vital to take extra steps to ensure your skin is thoroughly examined. This includes performing regular self-exams and scheduling regular dermatologist visits. Additionally, suppose you notice any new or changed moles. In that case, it is essential to have them evaluated by a professional as soon as possible.
The best way to avoid missing melanomas is to undress high-risk patients and dermatoscopically examine all lesions. This means using a special magnifying device to closely examine the skin for any suspicious-looking moles or spots.
Five clinical clues should raise suspicion for melanoma, which can be remembered by the acronym “ABCDE”:
A – Asymmetry: The lesion is not symmetrical, meaning one half does not look like the other half.
B – Border: The borders of the lesion are irregular, ragged, or not well-defined.
C – Color: The lesion has multiple colors or uneven color distribution.
D – Diameter: The lesion is larger than 6 mm in diameter (about the size of a pencil eraser).
E – Evolving: The lesion is changing in size, shape, or color.
If you notice any lesions on your skin that fit these criteria, it is important to see a dermatologist right away for further evaluation.
While melanomas can be difficult to spot, they must recognize the signs and symptoms. This includes any new or changed moles and any moles that are larger than a pencil eraser or have irregular borders. If you notice any of these changes, scheduling an appointment with a dermatologist is essential.
With early detection, skin cancer can be effectively treated. However, if cancer screenings miss melanomas, the chances of successful treatment are lower. This is why it is essential to be aware of the signs and symptoms of this type of skin cancer and to take steps to ensure you are thoroughly screened.
Melanomas are a serious form of skin cancer that can be deadly if not caught early. They are often missed on screening because they share many of the same characteristics as other benign moles. However, early diagnosis of melanomas can lead to successful treatment. If you have any concerns about a mole or lesion on your skin, please see a doctor right away for an evaluation.
- Shellenberger. (2016). Melanoma screening: A plan for improving early detection. Annals of Medicine, 48(3). https://doi.org/10.3109/07853890.2016.1145795
- Janda. (2020). Early detection of melanoma: a consensus report from the Australian Skin and Skin Cancer Research Centre Melanoma Screening Summit. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 44(2). https://doi.org/10.1111/1753-6405.12972
- Wu JH;Negbenebor N. (2022). Melanoma Screening: The Ethics of Over- and Underdiagnosis. Rhode Island Medical Journal (2013), 105(3). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35349614/
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The Specialist doctor from the University Hospital in Gothenburg, alumnus UC Berkeley. My doctoral dissertation is about Digital Health and I have published 5 scientific articles in teledermatology and artificial intelligence and others.