A sign is something that can be observed and recognized by a doctor or healthcare professional (for example, a rash). A symptom is something that only the person experiencing it can feel and know (for example, pain or tiredness). The signs and symptoms of melanoma can also be caused by other health conditions. It is important to have any unusual symptoms checked by a doctor.
Moles are common. On average, people have between 10 and 40 moles on their body. Most moles develop on a person before the age of 40. A normal mole is round or oval, usually flesh-coloured, pink, tan or brown and flat or dome-shaped.
Melanoma has a variety of forms and can appear anywhere on the body. About half of all melanomas start with a change in normal-looking skin. This change usually looks like a dark area or an abnormal new mole. Other melanomas develop from an existing mole, freckle, birthmark or coloured spot. This change in a mole, freckle, birthmark or coloured spot can occur over several months to years.
Melanomas in men are most common on the back. Melanomas in women are most common on the legs.
Signs and symptoms of melanoma include:
For examples of what to look for, visit the Canadian Skin Cancer Foundation.
Late signs and symptoms occur as the cancer grows larger or spreads to other parts of the body, including other organs. The symptoms of advanced melanoma will depend on which part of the body is affected. The symptoms are different for everyone and may include:
The Canadian Cancer Society is actively lobbying the federal government to establish a national caregivers strategy to ensure there is more financial support for this important group of people.