Melanoma is a type of skin disease that affects millions of Americans each year. Elderly adults are at a high risk of developing melanoma and it can often go undiagnosed and untreated for far too long. Aging adults often have a hard time identifying the symptoms of melanoma and must rely on family caregivers and home health care providers to help. If everyone is on the lookout for symptoms of melanoma on the senior’s skin, the odds of early detection increase.
Is Melanoma Skin Cancer?
Melanoma describes the condition of malignant cancerous cells that form in the upper or lower part of the skin. These skin cancer spots can happen to anyone at any age and appear anywhere on the body, although they are most likely to develop in paces with a high exposure to the sun. The most common areas include the face, arms, and legs.
High risk seniors include those with a fair complexion, freckles, and red or blond hair. Those with a history of melanoma or a family member with the disease are also at risk. Family caregivers and home health care providers who are looking after a senior in a high-risk group should be extra vigilant and watch for symptoms of melanoma.
What are the Symptoms of Melanoma?
Unusual moles are the top symptoms of melanoma, especially new moles or ones that change in appearance after many years of staying the same. Medical experts want people to look at moles on the body and use the “ABCDE” formula. This handy mnemonic reminds people to check out moles for Asymmetry, Borders, Color, Diameter and Evolving. Healthy moles are generally monochromatic, small, symmetrical and have clearly defined borders. Suspicious moles may look ragged and asymmetrical and contain several different colors at once, from red and pink to brown and black. Any mole that suddenly changes in appearance should also get some attention from a doctor.
Why Do Seniors Need Help Spotting Melanoma Symptoms?
Seniors have a difficult time inspecting their own moles for symptoms of melanoma. In many cases, their vision is poor, and they cannot bend or twist as needed to check out hard-to-reach places. Dementia or other memory issues may also interfere with a thorough inspection. Doctors recommend doing a mole check at least twice per year, but for aging adults, more frequently is often a good idea. If the elderly adult is in a high-risk group, family caregivers and home health care providers should definitely pay close attention to any changes in moles.
If a mole on a senior’s body displays any of the ABCDE characteristics as mentioned previously, family caregivers should schedule an appointment for a checkup. If the doctor agrees that the mole looks suspicious, they will likely order a biopsy, where they will scoop out the mole and send it to a lab for analysis If the mole is malignant, they can tell a lot about the condition and therefore put together an effective treatment plan.