health articles

Malignant Melanoma

Malignant melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. It is currently the fifth most common cancer in the UK, with 44 new cases being diagnosed every day.1

Malignant melanoma can be serious, but if you identify the condition early and get prompt attention and treatment, it can often be cured. If you are worried about malignant melanoma, the experienced GPs at Virtually Healthcare can provide expert assessment, advice and referral if needed.

What is malignant melanoma?

Malignant melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops from the pigment cells in the skin. The pigment cells start to grow and multiply in an uncontrolled way. The cells are usually (but not always) darker in colour than the surrounding skin.

Melanomas can appear on clear skin or develop in existing moles. Melanoma cancer cells can spread locally, into the lymph glands and other parts of the body, including the liver and lungs, so it’s crucial to catch them quickly.2

Sign and symptoms of malignant melanoma

Although most moles are harmless, it’s important to have a check-up if you develop a new mole or if you notice changes in an existing mole. Make an appointment with a doctor at Virtually Healthcare if a mole is:

  • Increasing in size.
  • Becoming irregular or developing uneven edges.
  • Itching.
  • Becoming red, sore or inflamed.
  • Developing surface thickening or crusting.
  • Bleeding.
  • Becoming varied in colour or shade.
  • Bigger than the head of a pencil.

Malignant melanoma care at Virtually Healthcare

Virtually Healthcare has a dermatology team made up of GPs with a particular interest in skin conditions and a consultant dermatologist. In our virtual Dermatology Clinic you can speak with our GP, upload photographs of your mole and have a video examination.

If your skin needs expert review, the GP can refer to our in-house consultant dermatologist or refer to a specialist hospital team for excision biopsy or further treatment.

The Virtually Healthcare difference

Virtually Healthcare is an innovative GP practice, providing expert care in the comfort, safety and privacy of your home. The Virtually Healthcare service is designed to fit with modern lives. Consultations are easy to access, discreet and convenient, with virtual appointments available seven days a week.

The highly skilled team includes more than 40 clinicians working together to investigate and treat disease and help you optimise your health and wellbeing. As well as experienced GPs, the team includes sexual health specialists, physiotherapists and practice nurses to offer a comprehensive primary care service.

During the pandemic, many patients are finding it more difficult to access healthcare. Virtually Healthcare provides rapid access video or telephone appointments, with consultations available the same day if you contact us before 3 pm. Our clinicians can provide professional assessment and advice, arrange investigations, prescribe treatment or arrange for a face-to-face review.

Who is at risk of malignant melanoma?

Some people are at increased risk of malignant melanoma:

  • People with fair skin.
  • Individuals with high levels of sun exposure
    People who have had severe sunburn.
  • Smokers.
  • Anyone with a family history of skin cancer.
  • People with impaired immunity due to medication, illness or cancer treatment.
  • People with moles that are very large.
  • Individuals with abnormal or dysplastic moles.

It is estimated that 86% of melanoma skin cancer cases in the UK are potentially preventable.3

Can skin cancer be diagnosed remotely?

Skin specialists can often identify moles that are concerning from a photo or a video consultation. If you are worried about a new or changing mole, Virtually Healthcare can help. Take photos of your skin and make an appointment at our Dermatology Clinic for expert skin analysis and advice.

A definitive diagnosis of melanoma requires an excision biopsy under local anaesthetic. The doctors will refer you to a dermatologist or a minor surgery unit for specialist removal. They will send the tissue to a pathology lab for analysis and arrange for follow up treatment if the lesion is a malignant melanoma.

Hot topics in skin cancer

Is melanoma the only type of skin cancer?

One of Virtually Healthcare’s GPs, with a special interest in dermatology and skin health, reports on the questions and concerns they currently see in their consultations.

Melanoma isn’t the only type of skin cancer; there are other types that are more common, although they are usually less serious and there is a lower risk of spread within the body. The two most common types are:

  • Basal cell carcinoma (BCC): BCCs make up eight in ten skin cancers. They can vary enormously in appearance. Some seem like scabs that don’t heal; others may appear lumpy and shiny or like a flat red mark. If left, they may develop into a crater with a raised, pearly edge which can gradually erode the skin. This tendency led to it being called a rodent ulcer.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)8: SCC is the second most common type of skin cancer. It usually appears on exposed parts of the body and looks like a scaly or crusty patch of skin with a red base. They can be tender and may bleed when touched.

Can you prevent skin cancer?

Around 86% of melanomas could be prevented. You can help protect your skin by decreasing your exposure to the sun. Our GPs recommend that you slip, slop, slap, seek, slide.8

  • Slip-on a t-shirt or shirt.
  • Slop on sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 before you go out in the sun.
  • Slap on a hat.
  • Seek shade or shelter, especially in the middle of the day when the sun is strongest.
  • Slide on some sunglasses.

Types of consultations we offer

We offer written, telephone and video consultations with a range of male and female clinicians from GPs, nurse practitioners, and primary care specialists such as physiotherapy.