Doctors around the world are trying to raise awareness about a form of melanoma that doesn’t come with the typical symptoms of skin cancer. Nodular melanoma, as it is called, is reportedly responsible for almost half of all skin cancer deaths despite representing just 15% of all melanoma cases.
Most common melanoma cases start as a mole and change in shape or color over time, but nodular melanoma is different. Nodular melanoma starts as a hard, red bump – almost like a pimple. Because of this, doctors often fail to diagnose the growths as cancer early on.
Here's a photo of a nodular melanoma growth in its early stages:
“This kind of melanoma we see more often in older men and on the head and neck rather than trunk and limbs,” said Professor John Kelly of the Australasian College of Dermatologists in Melbourne. “But that's just a slight preference it's not that they all occur in older men.”
Kelly tells patients to see a doctor immediately if they see a hard, red bump that gradually gets bigger over a period of a month or more.
“If it has has been present for more than a month and grows bigger and bigger, it needs urgent removal.” Kelly said. “But we don't want to cause hysteria about every red nodule that people get. Something that has been stable for more than a year is not going to be a worry. And something that has been present of only days or weeks is probably also not a worry.”
In Australia alone, nodular melanoma kills roughly 550 people annually. Doctors estimate that only 41% of nodular melanoma cases are initially diagnosed correctly.