Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that typically occurs because of too much exposure to ultraviolet or “UV” radiation. It’s a type of electromagnetic radiation that comes from the sun.
Melanoma is the third most common skin cancer, but it’s the most deadly. Melanoma takes more lives every year than any other type of skin cancer.
Yes. People can also be exposed to several types of man-made sources of UV rays. Here are the most common kinds:
There are several common symptoms for melanoma. They include:
When found early, melanoma can be completely removed, and in many cases, a simple procedure will be the only treatment needed. But if it is misdiagnosed or there’s a delay in detection, it can lead to serious medical issues and even death.
One study found that 30% of the melanomas were incorrectly diagnosed at the first medical visit. This seems to be the standard rate found in most research. If melanoma is left undetected, it can spread to other parts of the body—including vital organs.
Amelanotic melanoma (those melanomas with no color) frequently go undetected for longer, which allows it time to spread. They’re called “amelanotic” because they have no melanin, which is the dark pigment that gives most moles and melanomas their color. These unpigmented melanomas may be pinkish-looking, reddish, purple, normal skin color or even clear and colorless. Because of this characteristic, physicians may not recognize these as possible melanomas right away.
Many times, a patient’s symptoms are confused for another condition such as a blue nevus—a type of benign mole that’s outlined in blue; or liver spots, which are dark patches of skin that often look like moles. While liver spots are typically benign, they sometimes can develop into superficial melanoma.
There are two avoidable medical errors that frequently result in a missed or delayed diagnoses of melanoma. One is performing cryosurgery on a lesion when the diagnosis isn’t 100% certain. Experts say that it’s best to avoid freezing what looks to be a benign nevus (mole) because it could be melanoma, or when it grows back, a future biopsy may appear to look like melanoma. Most significantly, cryosurgery isn’t a recommended treatment for melanoma, and freezing an early-stage melanoma may allow it time to spread deeply and metastasize before it is properly diagnosed.
The second avoidable medical error is disposing of pathology specimens after an excision or biopsy. All pigmented lesions should be sent to a lab for histologic examination after excision or biopsy. Even a common black, brown, or tan noncancerous skin growth (seborrheic keratosis) that looks benign should be sent to the pathologist when excised. Only nonpigmented skin tags, typical sebaceous cysts, and typical lipoma lesions can safely be discarded.
The early diagnosis of melanoma means less treatment and better chances of increased life expectancy. Early and regular repeat screenings for melanoma are recommended for those with a familial history, genetic risk factors, and exposure to cancer causing conditions.
However, many people don’t get screened or aren’t referred to a specialist, like a dermatologist. Making matters worse is the fact that many general practitioners have a lack of familiarity with the appearance of early melanoma lesions and the need to biopsy them for complete study.
Many PCPs (primary care providers) say that their failing to offer patients screening and mole check because of time. Doctors see as many patients a day as they can, and screenings can take more than the 15 minutes most physicians have scheduled to see each patient.
If your physician fails to diagnose your skin cancer because of negligent care or some type of error, you may have a lawsuit for medical malpractice.
Misdiagnosis of melanoma is a significant cause of litigation against dermatologists and dermatopathologists. You should always be sure that your PCP follows up on areas of concern and refers you to a specialist when warranted.
However, if you or a loved one has suffered harm due to a missed or delayed melanoma diagnosis, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney at Buchanan Firm in Michigan for a free consultation. We can discuss your situation if you believe you’ve been injured as the result of a misdiagnosis, missed diagnosis, or an error in lab results.
Our firm proudly serves people all across Michigan, including major cities like Grand Rapids, Detroit, Traverse City, St. Joseph, Benton Harbor, Lansing, and Novi, and rural towns such as Cadillac, Saugatuck, Munising, Frankenmuth, Ludington, Marshall, or Coldwater. We will meet you after-hours, at home or in the hospital to accommodate you.