An irregular-shaped mole is whacked with a hammer as other moles look on in terror.

Melanoma: It's More Than Just a Wacky Mole

I remember when I was first diagnosed with melanoma back in 1988. I saw a dermatologist at the recommendation of a nurse that I had met at a pool party who saw my arm in the jacuzzi and said that I had “black death,” a melanoma. At my doctor’s appointment, I was curious about what skin cancer looked like and was told that it was like “a wacky mole.” A what?

Skin cancer is no kids game

My mind immediately went to the arcade game called “Whack-A-Mole” where you try to smash fake moles (the rodent variety) with a tiny club as they pop up. When I came to my senses, I inquired about this so-called “wacky mole.” I was told that melanoma was basically a mole that had gone rogue, looked weird, looked strange. It was like a mole from the children’s television show, Sesame Street, where “one of these things (moles) is not like the other."

Skin check for melanoma

So, that was what stuck in my mind. Look for odd-looking moles and then call the dermatologist, if I find one. Well, this is true today, I still do look for wacky moles. Over the years, I have been instructed to look for moles that have changed shape or color. I have examined myself for moles with irregular borders or just looked out of place. As time has gone by, I have come to realize that there is more to it than just looking for that wacky mole.

Looking for lesions

I recently read an article from the UK that shed light on more things I should be looking for when it relates to melanoma and other forms of skin cancer. This includes a sore or growth that itches, bleeds or simply does not heal, according to the British Skin Foundation.1 Even a new growth that crusts over or scabs may be a cause for concern.

Will it ever end?

So, let me get this right? I need to be concerned about slow-healing lesions? My mind keeps racing to mosquito bites and other summer skin maladies. They seem to take weeks to heal. Wacky moles seemed so much easier to monitor. I finally get to play outside (I live in Buffalo, NY) and I need to be concerned about whether something is an inconsequential bug bite or a deadly melanoma lesion? Yes.

How in the world can I manage this?

See a skin cancer expert

One thing that I learned long ago was that when something seems hard to figure out, see an expert. I learned to make regular dermatology appointments in the absence of really understanding how best to diagnose myself. In other words, if I am not sure, I get it checked out. I try not to leave things to chance or my lack of expertise.

Adding to my skin check list

Don’t get me wrong, I still do self-checks. I just build in regular check-ups as part of my skincare routine, because I’m no doctor (but I HAVE played one on tv). So, now in addition to looking for “wacky moles,” I have added searching for lesions that don’t heal well as part of my personal examinations. My checklist keeps getting bigger. What’s next to look for? I have no idea. Stay tuned.

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