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Symptoms of melanoma


The most characteristic feature associated with a melanoma is the black colour of the skin lesion. Whilst some malignant melanomas arise from benign naevi (‘moles’) the majority arise from normal skin. The development of a black skin lesion must never be ignored and the changes within a pre-existing skin lesion, particularly of its size, shape and colour should all alert the patient and doctors. The development of bleeding, crusting and a change in sensation or inflammation in a skin lesion merits further assessment.


A proportion of patients may present with signs or symptoms of disseminated melanoma. These may include the development of lymph nodes or skin nodules; pain from metastases, weight loss or neurological symptoms if there has been spread to the brain or spine.


There are several clinically recognised types of presentation: the first is the superficial spreading type of melanoma (up to 2/3 of cases) where a flat, coloured skin lesion progressively grows irregularly in the skin, typically on the limbs.


The nodular melanoma has more substance to it, is frequently faster growing and tends to be a rounder nodular skin lump, such nodular cases account for up to 20% of all cases.


The rarer types of melanoma are the lentigo maligna melanoma which is a very slow growing flat skin lesion growing on the face of typically elderly and female patients and the acral type which is found on the palms and soles and mucosal membranes and typically encountered in Asian and black peoples.

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