The first sign of melanoma is often a change in the size, shape, color or feel of a mole. Most have a black or blue-black area. In watching for changes in your moles, remember the following “ABCD” signs:

  1. Asymmetry: The shape of one half of the mole does not match the other.
  2. Border: The mole's edges are ragged, notched, or irregular. The pigment, or color, may spread to the surrounding skin.
  3. Color: The color is uneven. Shades of black, brown, tan, white, gray, red, pink or blue may be seen.
  4. Diameter: There is a change in size, usually an increase. Melanomas are usually larger than a pencil eraser.


Annoying sods the whole world over.

She has a mole that has changed shape, and has an irregular border.  I happen to think that she should get it checked out by a doctor, because it might be the early stages of a melanoma (and remember, we have free health care in the UK, so it won’t cost her anything).

But of course – she doesn’t want to go, despite me shouting at her in person and down the phone.

Why? Well, she is either scared, doesn’t want to ‘bother’ the GP or thinks that the GP will ‘strike her off the register’ for wasting the GP’s time.

And of course she won’t let me come along to persuade the GP to refer to a dermatologist at the local hospital.

What she doesn’t realise is that I see people who I think are ‘undeserving’ of medical attention getting hospital treatment, and to see her refuse to be examined makes me angry that these other people get seen, but that my mother might die because of some stupid idea she has in her head.

I see it a lot, when I turn up at some little old lady, hovering around death’s door, and the first thing they say is “I didn’t want to bother you”, and it always makes me angry.

So the purpose of this post is to remind you to look after your own health (and that means checking for skin cancer – 7,000 people are diagnosed every year in th UK, and 1,700 die from it).

And also to see if this will change my mothers mind about seeing her GP. 

Feel free to berate her in the comments…

33 thoughts on “Mole”

  1. Dear Tom's mum,I am sure that the doctor will be much more upset if you ignore this than if you go have it checked out. I had a weird mole removed, it took only a few minutes, and it wasn't bad at all (and I'm a terrible coward when it comes to anything medical).

    Regards Kate

  2. First rule of being a son or daughter – your parents won't listen to you! Will she pay more attention to your brother or another family member or friend? Failing that, make an appointment for her, tell her you are taking her to lunch but take her to GP's first – sneaky but might be effective?!. As a 'moley' person myself, I keep an eye on my moles and they do change shape and colour with time but the one's I've had removed have all been OK – you can tell your Mum that if you think it'll reassure her. Also having them removed is not painful or complicated. Parents eh!

  3. First rule of being a son or daughter – your parents won't listen to you! Will she pay more attention to your brother or another family member or friend? Failing that, make an appointment for her, tell her you are taking her to lunch but take her to GP's first – sneaky but might be effective?!. As a 'moley' person myself, I keep an eye on my moles and they do change shape and colour with time but the one's I've had removed have all been OK – you can tell your Mum that if you think it'll reassure her. Also having them removed is not painful or complicated. Parents eh!

  4. For goodness sake, Mrs Reynolds, please see your doctor!! Having a mole removed in the early stages of melanoma is only a bit more complicated than having a wart done. And it could be a life saver…

  5. I don't think kids ever listen to their parents either.. mu mum naggs me all the time (she calls it the 'dripping tap' ) but i never get round to a quarter of the stuff

  6. One thing you realize after you become a mother is that you don't wholly own your life any more. (“Whoops! Suicide is no longer an option. Nobody told me!”) So I think, no matter how old your children are, you owe it to them to prolong the life of their mommy.Try that weird argument on her, Tom! It's mommy-logic.

  7. I buried my 38-year-old brother in June this year. He did all the right things regarding getting his moles checked out, had several operations to remove them, and endured a heroic amount of chemo. He died leaving a wife and two beautiful wee girls.I cant tell you how shite the last 4 months have been.

    Do not delay, get yourself checked out.

  8. …and you know its the only way to shut him up…and if you got struck off you can bring it up in every argument for the next millenium…..and we're all gonna nag untill you do…*course all this should be said while handing you a cup of tea and a warm smile, but thats the internet for you*

  9. Or you could show her some MRIs of the lovely damage melanoma mets do to a person's brain. It's really quite stunning.Not to mention fatal.

    We see a shitload of melanoma down here in Aus. And in the dept of neurosurgery (where I eke my measly living), we see a shitload of brain mets secondary to melanomas. It's bloody depressing and largely unnecessary.

  10. I see this sort of things all the time. Well, not people with moles, obviously, they aren't really the remit of the ambulance service, but people who “don't want to be a bother”. It seems every time I hear that, the caller goes on to describe the symptoms of a heart attack. There was one little old lady who called in at 7am saying she'd had chest pains, nausea, clamminess, etc, etc since 2am and when I asked her why she'd waited til now to call she told me she “didn't want to get the ambulance men out of bed”. Bless!(Yes, Mrs Reynolds, see a doctor. Can you get some kind of online petition up to persuade her to go, perhaps?)

  11. A lot of older people were brought up in a time where you didn't go to the doctors unless your leg had just fallen off or you were at death's door. The idea is that they are somehow “failing” because they needed to seek help, that they are wasting resources that others need more. I think this idea came from the two wars and their aftermath, when it was probably a noble way to go about things.It's not the case anymore, you must use what's there for you, there are no prizes for being stoic about it. The doctors would probably consider you more of a pain in the backside if it turned out they could have sorted you out much quicker and easier if you'd come in three months ago.

    Point out to your Mum how she has paid her stamps all these years so she is more than entitled to use the services she has paid for.

    Having a mole removed is nothing, the doctor might even say it doesn't need to be removed (as they did for my weird bobbly “rice crispy” sized moles). If there is something wrong, like everyone says, getting it early is the key thing.

    If I were in your position Tom I expect I'd be crying and begging her. I figure she's scared of the doctor but I doubt she's as scared as you are of her getting ill.

    Good luck in convincing her.

  12. Doctors don't like being harbingers of bad news. Do your doctor a favour – see him or her now. Better too early than too late.Snoop

  13. You can't force people to get medical treatment if they don't want to, but I have a suggestion.Can you not take a photo of the changed mark on your mother's skin, and send it to your doctor asking him/her to check it out and that you are worried for your mother? If it's not wanting to bother the doctor that is stopping your mother, maybe she would think differently if a letter came from her GP asking her to come in and have it seen to?

    — Sharon

  14. When I worked on an ambulance, people were always asking me for medical advice.My response to them – If you are concerned enough about it to bring it up with me,

    then you are concerned enough to ASK YOUR DOCTOR!!!!

  15. When I worked on an ambulance, people were always asking me for medical advice.My response to them – If you are concerned enough about it to bring it up with me,

    then you are concerned enough to ASK YOUR DOCTOR!!!!

  16. a petition might work – I once got all my high-school teachers to sign a petition to my mother insisting that I was NOT too old for a choccy advent calendar, and it worked…

  17. Dear Mrs Reynolds,You don't know me and I don't know you, but I sort of know your son and he's rather worried about you. Yes, I know, he's fussing – but I'm sure it's better for him to fuss than to not care about his mum. If nothing else it shows you brought him up right.

    He's a good man. He looks after people even when he's tired and they're not being nice, and sometimes he actually saves their lives. He's studied hard and he's good at what he does, and that's why he's concerned about you.

    He says you're worried about being a burden on the system. It's a system you're entitled to use. It's a system you've paid for. It's there to look after you, cradle to grave.

    Having a mole checked out won't cost you a penny and won't cost the system a great deal, either. If it's nothing, then Tom will have peace of mind and stop pestering you about it. But if it's something, then the system will find it cheaper and more effective to deal with it in the early stages than if it is allowed to progress.

    Yours, Mary.

  18. Gah! Both my Nans (In Newham by the way) would never go to the doctor for anything. My mum would have to make an appointment herself, then go round and just pick her up and take her there.For old people the only thing worse than going to the doctors would be wasting the doctors time. Oh the horror! What would people think if they knew my Nan was going to waste a doctors time? It always worked! So go ahead and make an appointment.

    You may have been the RRU that went round to her after her stroke, she's in Forest Gate/Upton Park. She had nothing but great service from all the paramedics and whatnots. But Bow Hospital was not the nicest places to spend your last month – I did see a lot of incompetance.

    Always a pleasure to read your blog.

  19. Is she a nurse/medical person herself? They are great at denial when it comes to their own health… She DOES sounds fearful – has she a calm (female?) friend who could organise to accompany her to the GP? From your description, she will almost certainly be referred just in case.A relative of mine recently died of melanoma (or secondary tumours in the brain). He was a pasty Irishman who had done years of manual work outside. It wasn't a pleasant death (MRSA, dementia). Worst case scenario is the Big C – but as terrifying as that is, she needs to face the problem now rather than when her treatment options/chances are narrowed.

    Good luck, Reynolds and Reynolds' Mum!

  20. Sorry but hearing that “old people” stuff I have to disagree.I used to work at a GP surgery in Paris when I was a student.

    Every morning the waiting room was full of old grannies and “Uncle George from next door” and while looking at them you realized they had been there the day before as well. And the day before and the day before that. Well, that was MY experience

  21. Dear Random's Mum: if you ignore this problem, it won't go away! I've had several moles removed. It doesn't take any time at all, and it will make you feel so much better. Most times they don't turn out to be anything at all. And if your GP kicks you out, it's time to find a new GP! Your health is the most important thing you have!

  22. Hm I think things might be slightly different in France. Plus you're always going to get people who spend a lot of time at the doctors, young or old, due to many different issues, ongoing illnesses etc.

  23. My dad had just such a mole and he would have died had he not got treatment.You may have to play dirty. Moms may be the masters of the guilt trip, but they're susceptible too. I'd have to drag out a bunch of drama about the supposed grandchildren who'd never know their grandmother because she ignored a cancer that ate her alive, etc. etc.

  24. Tom's Mum… If people didn't have moles and so on, the GPs would be unemployed. Out on the street. Destitute. Your Doctor needs you!!! Visit him and ensure his continued well-being.

  25. toms mum- please please please get your mole checked,20 odd years ago my mother had a mole go bad which she didnt get checked for ages-too scared. thankfully it was removed but with a large chunk of her leg,she hasnt been quite they same since. get it sorted soon!

  26. She could try blaming you?”Sorry to bother you doctor but my son will just not shut up until I can tell him theres nothing to worry about…..”

    Gets you both what you want and does it without any chance the Doc might imagine it was her idea?


  27. Every time I've been to my doctor he's done a mole check. If he sees something new he examines it closely and makes a snap decision – usually in favour of removal. So I've had a mole removed from each side of my neck. Took no time, cost next to nothing and I have one less thing to worry about. Ultimately your mom will save the system money by getting the check now. Just do it!

  28. Tom's mum: berate, berate. Seriously though, doctors would much rather see fifty moles that aren't anything serious, than one person who's been too scared, too long, and to whom they now have to mention the word 'oncologist'. It is probably nothing (it usually is) – but better to know than to assume.

    Plus, you know Tom's going to mention it on every post from now until you do.

  29. I've had several moles removed. It doesn't hurt – in fact the local anaesthetic stings more than the removal of the mole. Your GP might well do it him or herself, so you won't have to go to hospital.Your GP will not be bothered by checking your mole or by removing it. It's what s/he gets paid for! And, as many people have said, I am sure the GP would much rather remove a mole before it turns nasty than have to give you bad news.

  30. i'm just going to support everything said above, and if Tom doesn't go on about it until you get it checked out, then I'm darned sure the rest of us will bring the subject up repeatedly.M

  31. My aunt had a melanoma but due to embarrassment about it's place on her body (down there) she left it for a long time. By then she had brain mets and died within 6 months.My mother has an unusual, lumpy, black mole about a penny diameter. After much prodding she has seen two doctors and been told it's benign. I have my doubts – do benign moles get so big?

    Glad your mum succumbed to the pressure!


  32. *shudder*Hi there. Long time listener first time commenter!

    EVERYONE's mother is the same. 100% fact.

    Pardon the over-long post, but:

    My maternal grandmother recently passed away (she was 84). She'd been looking increasingly frail over the past few months, and it wasn't a massive surprise but the circumstances were this: My parents (both retired) had gone touring round europe for 6 weeks in their camper van (as they do every year). While they'd been away, my gran had begun to feel unwell, and gradually deteriorated. When my folks got back and went to see her, she was skeletal, and it turned out had not eaten or been to the toilet for several weeks. (She lives in a warden-assisted McCarthy and Stone retirement block. very nice. Warden call buttons in every room. Checks every day. Obviously she didn't want to bother/worry them, so when the warden (who she'd formed a strong friendship with over the last few years) popped round every day, gran just said “oh yes, I'm fine thanks”.

    So my parents took her to the hospital who couldn't diagnose anything specific, and then brought her back home with them to feed her up a bit and let her regain her strength. She didn't get much better, and eventually she was re-admitted to hospital, they found lots of cancer all over the place, and she died peacefully on her first day in a hospice.

    During and after my gran's death, my mother had many conversations with me despairing of how HER mother hadn't mentioned any of her ongoing ailments to her, and wouldn't ask for help or take proper care of herself.

    Recently, I found out after grilling my dad that she's going to need a new hip soon, and she has regular doctors appointments about her irregular heartbeat. Did I know of any of this? Did she help me MOVE HOUSE with a dodgy hip and not even mention it?

    Urgh. Mothers.

    Apologies again for length!

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