We all have moles somewhere on our skin and almost always these will remain innocent (benign) and harmless throughout our lives. Very occasionally a mole can change and turn into a cancer - a malignant melanoma. If this does happen, it is so important to see your family doctor for a check up as it is very important that a cancerous mole is diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.
If a mole or freckle shows the following changes, then it is recommended that you see a specialist (dermatologist) .
It is getting bigger
It is changing shape
It has an irregular shape
It is changing colour
It has a mixture of different colours
An ulcer ( a sore or raw area ) has formed on its surface
It is red or sore
Moles or freckles have started to bleed or are itchy
Most doctors can tell whether the mole is benign or malignant straight away but if in doubt, a small piece of tissue at the mole site is removed ( biopsy) to find out if cancer cells are present.
What happens next depends on the result of the biopsy. The biopsy will show if you have melanoma and if it has all been removed. It will also show how deep it extends under the skin surface and if you need further tests and treatment.
If the melanoma has been completely removed and if it is not too deep then no further management is necessary. However, you will have regular appointments with the doctor to have your skin examined as melanoma can recur. He/she will also show you how to inspect your skin.
If you have been treated for melanoma you are more at risk of developing it at the same place, or elsewhere in the body.