Goodskin Dermatology

Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment for Melanoma

You see a strange lesion you don’t think was there before. Maybe that mole looks like it’s started to change shape. Was that freckle always that color?

Seeing changes to our skin can be worrisome. Are you imagining things, or could it be melanoma?

The only way to know for sure is to schedule an appointment with a qualified dermatologist or physician for a diagnosis.

But before you worry too much, take a moment to learn what exactly melanoma is, what symptoms to expect, what causes melanoma, and the best melanoma treatments available.

Table of Contents

best melanoma treatment

What Is Melanoma?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that originates in melanocytes, the cells responsible for producing the pigment melanin that gives color to the skin, hair, and eyes. 

Melanoma is considered the most dangerous form of skin cancer because it has the potential to spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body if not detected and treated early.

Is Melanoma a Serious Cancer?

Melanoma translates to “black tumor” and is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. It can both grow and spread very quickly.

Approximately 30% of melanomas will begin in existing moles, but the remaining start in normal skin. This is why it’s vital to pay attention to any changes in your skin.

How many moles you have may be a predictor of your risk of developing melanoma. Knowing the risk factors could mean the difference between life and death, as early detection is the key to treatment success. 

The good news is that melanoma has a 99% cure rate in the earliest stages. So if you notice any changes to your skin, it’s critical that you see a dermatologist or doctor for diagnosis as soon as possible.

Goodskin Dermatology in Oregon specializes in the early detection of melanoma. Once diagnosed, our team of specialists goes to work to develop an individualized treatment plan to remove the melanoma quickly to keep it from spreading. 

We’ll be by your side throughout the entire process, from diagnosis to remission. Contact us today to schedule your appointment if you think you may be at risk of developing melanoma.

What Are the Symptoms of Melanoma?

Melanoma can present various symptoms, and it is important to be vigilant about any changes in your skin. The most common symptom of melanoma is the appearance of a new or existing mole or spot that undergoes changes in size, shape, color, or texture. 

Here are some key symptoms to be aware of using the ABCDE rule:

  • Asymmetry: One half of the mole or spot does not match the other half. In other words, if you were to draw a line through the middle, the two halves would not be identical.
  • Border irregularity: The edges of the mole are jagged, notched, blurred, or poorly defined. Melanomas may have uneven or scalloped borders.
  • Color variation: The mole may have multiple colors or shades, including brown, black, tan, red, white, or blue. The colors may be unevenly distributed or splotchy.
  • Diameter: The size of the mole is larger than 6 millimeters (about the size of a pencil eraser). However, not all melanomas are large; some can be smaller.
  • Evolving: The mole changes in size, shape, color, or elevation over time. This includes any new symptoms such as itching, tenderness, or bleeding.
  • Firmness or raised area: Some melanomas may feel raised or bumpy to the touch.
  • Satellite lesions: These are new, smaller moles or spots that appear around the original mole.

Not all melanomas follow the ABCDE rule, and some may lack these visible characteristics. Additionally, other types of skin cancers or benign skin conditions may present similar symptoms. Therefore, any suspicious mole or spot should be examined by a dermatologist for a proper diagnosis.

If you notice any concerning changes in your skin, seek medical attention promptly. Remember, it’s better to be cautious and have a skin evaluation done by a healthcare professional if you are unsure about any skin changes.

treatment for melanoma

What Causes Melanoma?

The primary cause of melanoma is believed to be excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or artificial sources like tanning beds. UV radiation can damage the DNA in skin cells, leading to abnormal and uncontrolled cell growth, which can eventually result in cancer.

However, several factors can increase the risk of developing melanoma, including:

  • Sun exposure: Prolonged and unprotected exposure to UV radiation
  • Fair skin: People with fair skin, light hair, and blue or green eyes are at higher risk
  • Personal history: A previous history of melanoma or non-melanoma skin cancers
  • Many moles: Having numerous moles or atypical (dysplastic) moles
  • Age: Melanoma can occur at any age, but is more common in older adults
  • Gender: Men have a higher risk of developing melanoma than women
  • Weakened immune system: Individuals with weakened immune systems are more susceptible
  • Family history: Having a family history of melanoma or other skin cancers increases the risk
  • Geographic location: Living closer to the equator or at higher altitudes increases UV exposure

How Is Melanoma Diagnosed?

Melanoma is diagnosed through a combination of clinical examination, dermoscopy, and biopsy. Here’s an overview of the diagnostic process.

Clinical Examination

The first step in diagnosing melanoma involves a thorough examination of the skin by a healthcare professional, usually a dermatologist. They will visually inspect any suspicious moles or spots on the skin. 

The ABCDE rule (Asymmetry, Border irregularity, Color variation, Diameter larger than 6 mm, and Evolving) is often used as a guide to identifying potential signs of melanoma, but not all melanomas follow this pattern.


Dermoscopy, also known as dermatoscopy or skin surface microscopy, is a non-invasive technique that allows the dermatologist to examine the skin structures in more detail. 

A dermatoscope, a specialized handheld device with magnification and light, is used to observe the mole’s patterns and colors, aiding in the evaluation of its characteristics.


If your healthcare professional suspects that a mole or skin lesion might be melanoma based on clinical examination and/or dermoscopy, a biopsy will be performed to confirm the diagnosis. 

A biopsy involves removing a sample of the suspicious tissue and sending it to a laboratory for examination under a microscope. Your doctor may order a:

  • Punch biopsy: In a punch biopsy, the doctor uses a circular cutting tool to remove a small, cylindrical piece of tissue from the mole or lesion.
  • Excisional biopsy: In an excisional biopsy, the entire mole or lesion is surgically removed for examination.
  • Incisional biopsy: In an incisional biopsy, only a part of the mole or lesion is removed for examination.

The biopsy sample is then analyzed by a pathologist who specializes in diagnosing diseases by examining cells and tissues (histopathology). The pathologist will determine whether the lesion is benign (non-cancerous), atypical (dysplastic), or malignant (melanoma). 

If melanoma is confirmed, the pathologist will also determine its thickness (Breslow thickness) and its characteristics, both of which are essential for staging and guiding further treatment.

Staging and Further Evaluation

If melanoma is diagnosed, additional tests may be performed to determine the extent of the disease and whether it has spread to nearby lymph nodes or other parts of the body. This process is known as staging. 

Staging helps the healthcare team determine the appropriate treatment plan for the patient.

What Is the Most Effective Treatment for Melanoma?

The most effective melanoma treatment depends on several factors, including: 

  • The stage of the cancer 
  • The location and size of the tumor
  • The person’s overall health, and 
  • Other individual considerations 

The only way to determine the most effective melanoma treatment is by visiting a dermatologist or oncologist.

Melanoma treatment may include:

  • Surgery
  • Immunotherapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy

In some cases, a combination of these treatments may be used for the best outcome. Here are the main treatment options:


Surgery is the primary early-stage melanoma treatment, where the tumor is removed along with a margin of healthy tissue around it. The extent of surgery depends on the thickness and depth of the melanoma. 

In some cases, a sentinel lymph node biopsy is performed to check if the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.


Immunotherapy is a type of treatment that stimulates the body’s immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. 

Immune checkpoint inhibitors, such as pembrolizumab, nivolumab, and ipilimumab, have shown significant success in treating advanced melanoma. They can help the immune system target and destroy cancer cells more effectively.

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy drugs are designed to block specific molecules or genetic mutations driving the growth of cancer cells. For melanoma, targeted therapy is often used in cases with specific genetic mutations, such as BRAF mutations

Drugs like vemurafenib, dabrafenib, trametinib, and encorafenib are examples of targeted therapies used for melanoma.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. It is sometimes used after surgery to reduce the risk of melanoma recurrence or to treat melanoma that has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.


While not as commonly used for melanoma as in the past, chemotherapy may be an option for treating advanced or metastatic melanoma when other treatments are not effective.

Combination Therapies

In some cases, doctors may combine different treatment approaches, such as immunotherapy with targeted therapy or immunotherapy with chemotherapy, to enhance the effectiveness of treatment.

Melanoma treatment plans are highly individualized, and the best approach will be determined by a team of healthcare professionals specializing in cancer care. The stage of melanoma plays a significant role in determining the appropriate treatment strategy. 

Early-stage melanomas have a higher chance of being cured with surgery alone, while advanced-stage melanomas may require a more comprehensive approach with a combination of treatments.

The prognosis for melanoma has improved significantly in recent years due to advances in targeted therapies and immunotherapies. Early detection and prompt treatment offer the best chances of successful outcomes and long-term survival. 

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with melanoma, it’s essential to work closely with a team of medical professionals to determine the most suitable melanoma treatment plan.

melanoma treatment

Goodskin Dermatology Provides High-Quality, Patient-Based Melanoma Treatment

If you spot a suspicious-looking mole or have noticed a mole that has started to change, the team at Goodskin Dermatology can conduct a thorough evaluation to help determine the cause. 

Our team of dermatologists provides top-quality care in several locations throughout Oregon, with offices in:

  • Clackamas
  • Hillsboro
  • Troutdale, and
  • Aloha

Call us first if you suspect you may have melanoma, and we’ll conduct a thorough examination before customizing a treatment plan to get you back on the path to good health.

Our mission is to create a melanoma treatment plan that will get the results you want in the least invasive way possible.

We are on your side. Visit the Goodskin Dermatology online scheduler to book your appointment today.

The content in this blog should not be used in place of direct medical advice/treatment and is solely for informational purposes.