My Mole Changed: Is it an Emergency?

While some changes in a mole are harmless, Jennifer Walker MD, a dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at Group Health, says certain symptoms are red flags that you should schedule an appointment right away.

“Any spot that is bleeding or itching that wasn’t previously or colors like black, red, white and purple are worrisome,” she explains. “We don’t like to see those in moles.”

How Can I Expedite a Dermatology Appointment?

Getting in for a dermatology appointment isn’t always easy – especially in Cincinnati – but there are a few ways to speed up the process when you’re concerned.

“You have to be persistent,” Dr. Walker points out. “And, get in to your primary care doctor first to have them take a look. If they are concerned for melanoma, they can help you expedite an appointment.”

How to Detect Skin Cancer Early

It’s important to check your own skin about once a month. This way, you’ll know the pattern of moles, freckles and other marks so you’ll notice changes. Perform the exam in front of a full-length mirror and use a hand-held mirror for places that are hard to see. Have a family member or friend examine areas like the scalp and back.

When performing a self-exam on a mole, follow the ABCDEs of melanoma, which include:

  • Asymmetry: One half of the abnormal area is different from the other half.
  • Borders: The edges of the growth are irregular.
  • Color: Color changes from one area to another, with shades of tan, brown, or black, and sometimes white, red, or blue. A mixture of colors may appear within one sore.
  • Diameter: The spot is larger than 6 mm in diameter – about the size of a pencil eraser. (Smaller moles could still present a problem.)
  • Evolution: The mole keeps changing appearance.

On the other hand, remember to schedule an annual skin exam with your doctor. If you've been previously diagnosed with a skin cancer or you fall into a high-risk category for developing skin cancer, your doctor may recommend more frequent exams.

Tags: Skin Health

Last Updated: June 9, 2015