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Moles and the diagnosis of melanoma

Oklahoma residents who are fair-skinned, who have a family history of melanoma or a history of severe sunburn in childhood, or who are regularly exposed to the sun might have a higher risk of developing melanoma. While only 1 percent of all skin cancers diagnosed are melanoma, the American Cancer Society reports that most deaths from skin cancer are the result of that particular type.

Early diagnosis is a critical element in surviving melanoma. The survival rate for someone who is diagnosed early is 94 to 100 percent. However, if the melanoma spreads, the rate is only 20 percent.

To diagnose melanoma, a physician will examine a mole for several characteristics. If the mole is asymmetrical or has an irregular border, it could be cancerous. A variation in color may also be a sign of melanoma. It is also important to note whether the mole changes over time particularly in diameter or appearance. Melanoma most commonly appears on women’s legs and men’s backs, but it may appear elsewhere including places that do not get sun exposure such as the scalp, the eye, and the bottoms of the feet. Sunscreen and protective covering can help reduce the risk of developing melanoma.

A doctor’s failure to diagnose melanoma could be medical malpractice. Two elements must be in place before a medical malpractice lawsuit can be successful. One is that the medical professional must have been negligent in some way compared to the type of medical care a patient would normally receive. The other is that the patient must have been harmed by the error. If a person with a family history of melanoma has a mole that is irregular and varied in color and is dismissed by a physician without further testing, this could be a failure to provide a reasonable standard of care.