Melanoma is a form of skin cancer, usually identified by certain types of mole. It’s most commonly associated with exposing the skin to too much ultraviolet (UV) light.
If it isn’t detected early, melanoma can spread to other organs in the body, so it’s vital to speak to a doctor as soon as you notice any changes in an existing mole, or suspicious-looking new moles.
They will be able to assess you for any visible signs of a potential melanoma and recommend next steps that will ensure you are given the appropriate treatment as soon as possible.
One short consultation could potentially save your life.
The most common form of melanoma is known as Superficial Spreading Melanoma, which accounts for around 70 per cent of cases in the UK. Problems usually occur on the back, legs, arms or face, while some rarer forms of melanoma affect the soles of the feet, palms of the hands, the eyes and under the fingernails.
There is a recognised checklist for anyone concerned about a mole, known asABCDE. You should consult a doctor if your mole:
Isasymmetrical, i.e. one side is a noticeably different shape.
Does not have smooth, easily identifiableborders.
Contains more than onecolour, especially if patches of it have turned very dark brown, red or black.
Measures more than six millimetres indiameter.
Becomesenlarged, i.e. it covers a larger surface area or has become raised.
It’s worth noting that these symptoms do not occur in a specific order and not all need to be present for it to be melanoma.
You should also get yourself checked out if your mole starts to itch, bleed, crust over or becomes painful.
When it comes to potential melanoma, you should never adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach. The safest option is always to consult a doctor.
What are the stages of Melanoma?
The melanoma is less than 1mm thick and hasn't broken the skin.
The melanoma may be up to 2mm thick, or it may still be less than 1mm but it has broken the skin.
The melanoma may be up to 4mm thick, or it may still be less than 2mm but it has broken the skin.
The melanoma may be thicker than 4mm, or it may be less than 4mm but it has broken the skin.
The melanoma is thicker than 4mm and it has broken the skin.
The melanoma has spread to up to three lymph nodes, but these are not visibly bigger. It hasn't broken the skin or spread to other areas of the body.
The melanoma has broken the skin and spread to up to three lymph nodes, but these are not visibly bigger, OR the melanoma hasn't broken the skin, but it has spread to up to three lymph nodes and these are visibly bigger, ORthe melanoma hasn't broken the skin, but it's starting to spread across your skin and lymphatic channels (although it hasn't reached any lymph nodes).
The melanoma has spread to your lymph nodes, skin and lymphatic channels,OR it has broken the skin and spread to up to three lymph nodes that are visibly bigger, OR it has spread to 4 or more lymph nodes and may or may not have broken the skin.
The melanoma is at an advanced stage and may have spread beyond your lymph nodes, to area such as the brain, bones and lungs.
Serious forms of melanoma
In contrast, stage 4 is a melanoma that has spread to other areas of your body. This is the most serious form of melanoma and much more difficult to treat. In these cases, you might be offered treatments associated with many other types of cancer, such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy.
The advantages of early detection are very clear. If you have any concerns, don’t wait for things to get worse. Talk to a doctor today.
What Causes Melanoma?
You are probably aware of the warnings that say prolonged exposure to sunlight increases your risk of melanoma and skin cancer.
That’s because sunlight contains ultraviolet light that can be damaging to skin cells. It actually contains three types of UV light - A, B and C - and it’s the first two that cause problems for your skin.
This is why the labelling on sun lotion bottles details the protection offered against both UVA and UVB. Inadequate sun cream, whether it’s not a high enough factor or simply hasn’t been applied properly, can increase the risk of melanoma.
Sunburn and Melanoma
Sunburn is caused when skin cells are damaged by prolonged exposure to UV light. It can be very painful and uncomfortable at the time, but more seriously it also increases the risk of developing a melanoma in later life.
Melanoma causes other than the sun
Using sunbeds also puts you at an increased risk of melanoma, so much so that the government passed a law in 2010, making it illegal for under-18s to use them. They are just as dangerous as sitting out in the sun and there are plenty of studies to prove that using them to get a tan is simply not worth the risk
Who is most at risk of melanoma?
Aside from spending too long in the sun, there are various characteristics that studies have shown can put you at increased risk of developing melanoma. If any of them apply to you, you should take extra care to protect yourself. They include:
A family history of skin cancer
If you have had skin cancer previously
Fair or freckled skin
Blonde or red hair
A high number of moles on your body
A poor immune system
As with most cancers, studies are constantly being done to find ways to identify signs early and provide better treatment. Recent studies have found that there may be an increased risk of melanoma in people who are also suffering from conditions such as sarcoidosis and Crohn’s disease (IBD).
This can be to do with the symptoms of these illnesses, or a side effect of the medication associated with them.
Some research also indicates that men who are overweight are more likely to develop a melanoma.
The treatment for melanoma depends entirely on how early it’s identified. Generally, once a potential melanoma is identified, you will be sent for a biopsy to determine if the mole is cancerous.
You will hear doctors talk about what is known as a ‘staging system’ to determine the appropriate treatment for your melanoma. This is used to outline how far the cancer has spread.
For example, stage 0 is a melanoma that has been caught very early and not progressed beyond the surface of the skin. This can usually be surgically removed under local anaesthetic.
NHS - trained and registered doctors
Every one of our doctors is registered with the General Medical Council and can be found on the NHS National Performers List, so you know you are only ever receiving the best possible care and advice.
They are experienced in treating a wide range of conditions, and can help with almost everything your regular GP could in a physical surgery. You can meet some of our doctors here.
Push Doctor also has an in-house Medical team, who support our doctors day in, day out, and enable our doctors to do what they do best. They are also responsible for the ongoing training and development of doctors on our platform.
They are the foremost authority in our industry, assessing health providers' ability to provide people with safe, effective, compassionate and high-quality care – be they offline or online doctors.
Push Doctor is registered with the CQC under the name 'Push Dr Limited', with the registration number 1-5345986073.
Our most recent inspection took place in May 2019, concluding that the service we provide is safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led – gaining a 'Good' rating overall. You can read the report in full on our CQC profile.
Same day prescriptions
Our NHS-trained GPs can, if appropriate, issue prescriptions online following a consultation. Once your consultation is complete, our team will search for the closest pharmacy to you which has your medication available. We'll then send you a text when your prescription is ready to collect.
To collect your medication, simply hear to the nominated pharmacy to collect and pay for your prescription. You will need to take a valid form of ID to show the pharmacist when you arrive. This process is almost always done within the same day of your consultation.
Instant fit (sick) notes
Our GPs can send a sick/fit note directly to you if necessary following an online consultation. These can be sent directly by email or first-class post.
Fit notes include recommendations about how and when you'll be able to return to work or education, or whether you're able to return to work with amended duties (e.g no heavy lifting or reduced hours). They can also contain detailed advice about managing your medical issue in the workplace.