A melanoma is the most feared and serious of the three most common types of skin cancer. Australia has the highest rate of melanomas in the world. Fortunately it is also the best country in the world at diagnosing and curing them. If a melanoma is found early, when it is less than 1mm deep, removing it with a proper margin will cure 95% of patients.
Most melanomas are brown and flat. Most are new spots that have not always been there. However, a melanoma could be pink, black, bluish, white or a combination of colours. They may sometimes be raised. They may sometimes arise within a spot that has been there a long time. It is hard to give guidelines on what to look for as appearances vary, but the most important clue is change. A spot which is new and changing, or a spot which is old but has started to grow or change shape or colour is suspicious.
If you have the slightest concern about a spot or mole, get it checked as soon as possible by a doctor skilled in dermoscopy (a Dermatoscope is a hand held microscope for imaging skin lesions). Most of the time it will turn out that the spot is benign, but the anxiety over this can be enormous, so please never hesitate to get a check. We are here to put your mind at rest and we do not want you to suffer the fear of uncertainty. We would rather see a thousand benign lesions than miss one melanoma.
Our doctors have had extensive training in dermoscopy, a method proven to significantly increase diagnostic accuracy in the detection of melanomas.
If a melanoma is suspected, the spot will be surgically removed and sent for pathological testing. If the pathologist finds that it is a melanoma, he will tell us its thickness. In nearly all cases, this will result in the need for a further excision. The purpose of the second excision is to provide the correct margin. This means the margin of healthy skin surrounding the melanoma that needs to be removed. This is critically important. Numerous clinical studies have shown that it is the margin taken which determines the likelihood of the melanoma re-occurring. The depth of the melanoma is what determines the margin necessary.
Once cured of a melanoma, the next most important thing is life-long follow-up. Any person who has had one melanoma is at increased risk of getting a second one. It is crucial to diagnose the second one as early as possible so that it too can be cured.
IF YOU HAVE EVER HAD A BCC OR IF YOU HAVE A SUSPICIOUS SPOT, CALL US FOR AN APPOINTMENT ON 02 9299 7777